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Strange large insect

I found this very strange large insect last night on my outdoor mat. It has the body of a bee black and yellow stripes. But it looks like the head of a grasshopper. I can send you a photo of it? My first thought was murder Hornet but it doesn't have wings.

Lynn, Santa Barbara - March 4, 2021

Curator Response

Hi Lynn!

What a cool find you’ve made! The insect in question is known as a Jerusalem Cricket, or Stenopelmatus sp. They belong to the family Stenopelmatidae and the larger order, Orthoptera which includes grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids. They are large insects, reaching about 2–3 inches long! Although their bites can hurt due to their strong mandibles, they are not venomous as they are sometimes said to be.

It’s not surprising you found this critter at night as they are nocturnal insects! However, they usually aren’t visiting our doorsteps as these insects typically spend their time underground. Sometimes they are found wandering above the surface looking for mates or after having been uncovered while digging. They are most active during the spring after the rain has drenched the soil. To escape the heat and dry weather, they burrow into the soil. They like the food down there too as their main food sources are roots and tubers, although sometimes they will feast on decaying organic matter.

Jerusalem Crickets are talented drummers! To attract a mate, both the males and females drum their abdomens on the ground. If their beats are suitable, a potential mate will begin a duet. There are several species of Jerusalem Cricket, and they all have a unique drum. Eggs are laid in groups in the soil. When they hatch, they have about a two-year life span ahead of them!

In the Santa Barbara Gallery here at the museum, the Jerusalem Cricket is celebrated! Stop by to get a closer look at one and to learn more about the name “Jerusalem Cricket.” A misleading common name, as they are neither from Jerusalem nor are they actually crickets!

Keep observing nature and thank you for sharing!

Naturalist Dylan Otte