They may look terrifying and even make their way indoors, frightening your children, but mole crickets (Scapteriscus spp.) are generally harmless to humans and pets. They can, however, damage your vegetable garden and quickly become a nuisance in and around your lawn. Safely controlling them can be accomplished with household products that pose no health risk to your family.
Mole Crickets Identification and Damage
Mole crickets are equipped with shovel-like front legs that allow them to easily dig through soil. They measure about 1 1/2-inches long with a dull brown or tan-colored body. These nocturnal insects have wings that allow them to fly, and they can run quickly. They are, however, poor jumpers. Mole crickets damage plant roots by feeding on them and tunneling through them. You can determine if mole crickets are a problem in your soil by mixing 1 ounce of liquid dish soap in 2 gallons of water and pouring the solution over the area. Count the mole crickets as they emerge from the soil. It generally takes only a few minutes for the insects to make their way to the surface. If more than five mole crickets appear, the University of Florida IFAS Extension website suggests treating the area with insecticides.
Homemade Sticky Traps
Sticky traps are a cheap way to trap mole crickets with household products. Commercial traps are available or you can create your own by cutting rectangle pieces of yellow construction paper. Boil 1 quart of corn syrup and 1 quart of water to create a sticky paste and paint one side of the paper with the substance. Place these homemade insect traps flat on the ground around your vegetable garden. Monitor the traps and replace with freshly made sticky traps as needed. Keep in mind that these traps will capture other insects including beneficial and desirable species. Keep children and pets away from the traps.
Do-It-Yourself Molasses Traps
Dark sticky molasses makes a homemade trap for all species of grasshoppers and crickets, including mole crickets. Position glass jars around your vegetable garden where mole crickets are a problem. Push them into the soil so the top of the jar is level with the ground. Fill each jar about halfway with a mixture of one part molasses and 10 parts water. Mole crickets are attracted to the molasses and will fall in the jar and drown. Keep an eye on the traps, and clean and refill them as needed.
Other Mole Cricket Management Options
Beneficial predators naturally control mole crickets. Larra wasp is one such insect that can help manage these annoying crickets. Partridge pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) is a host plant for these beneficial wasps and grows as an annual. Planting this wildflower near your garden will attract larra wasps, which prey on mole crickets.