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Eerie-looking animals are unnerving to most people, especially when they happen to be big insects -- yikes. Found in western North America, Jerusalem crickets (genus Stenopelmatus) definitely are part of both of those categories. Though these imposing bugs -- usually 1 to 2 1/2 inches long -- have a rather ominous exterior, they're not major hazards to human beings. "Potato bug" is another moniker for these insects -- a tribute to their potato tuber-munching inclination.
Although many insects are indeed venomous, Jerusalem crickets are not. They are devoid of any specialized toxic glands; as a result, they don't give off poison when they're feeling protective, scared, agitated or hungry.
Jerusalem crickets aren't usually dangerous because of biting, either -- although there are exceptions to this. They do occasionally bite when they feel cornered or bothered by people in any way. If you leave these guys alone, they will probably do the same for you. Jerusalem crickets typically only are hazardous if another party initiates the encounter. Be safe and practical. Keep your distance from these insects. If you do experience a bite from one of them, it might hurt a lot -- ouch. Jerusalem crickets are equipped with jaws that are big and sturdy, after all. Because of this painful possibility, it's imperative to be extremely cautious if you ever are close to one of them.
Jerusalem crickets are often rather meek in nature. If you see one, he might just immediately try to escape your sight, rather than make any attempt to be fierce or truculent with you. Certain species of Jerusalem crickets even leap when they are in apprehensive situations.
Jerusalem crickets are usually underground, although they occasionally come out in times of damp and cool weather conditions, so take note. They often hang out just below logs and stones. For the most part, Jerusalem crickets abstain from going inside of human structures, whether homes or businesses.
If you spot an insect that you think might be a Jerusalem cricket but aren't 100 percent sure, be on the lookout for any key identification traits. Not only are these creatures brown or light yellowish in coloration, they are also highly bumbling in their movements, not graceful at all. In maturity, they are free of wings. Their eyes are dark and tiny, and they have conspicuously big heads. They are sometimes compared facially to human children, and because of that, "child of the earth" is one of their handles.
- University of Nevada Cooperative Extension: The Jerusalem Cricket
- University of California Davis Bohart Museum of Entomology: Jerusalem Crickets
- Colorado State University Extension: Jerusalem Cricket
- San Diego Natural History Museum: Jerusalem Cricket
- California Academy of Sciences: The Dark Side of Entomology
- Arizona Cooperative Extension: Pest Press
- David De Lossy/Photodisc/Getty Images