Lately, I’ve received a few calls about strange, six-legged alien-like critters that appear to burrow up from the ground and crawl across the landscape.

Lately, I’ve received a few calls about strange, six-legged alien-like critters that appear to burrow up from the ground and crawl across the landscape. Not to fear, it’s only mole crickets. They’re harmless to us, as humans, but they could have a devastating effect on your lawn, pasture or garden.

Three non-native mole cricket species exist in Florida, including tawny, southern and shortwinged. The skin of the insect is light brown and adults usually reach approximately one and a half inches in length. They do have wings, which fold over their back. Mole Crickets live in soil and their favorite food is plant roots. Mole crickets are excellent at tunneling. The tunneling action also loosens soil, so that often the grass roots break away from the soil, leading to grass dying through root system desiccation. They can weave a myriad of routes under a lawn and can tunnel more than 20 feet in a night.

During the spring season, mole crickets lay their eggs in the soil. Nymphs hatch after two weeks. The nymphs closely resemble the adult in appearance, but lack developed wings. Nymphs slowly mature and conclude their life cycle the following spring, therefore there is only one generation per year. Mole crickets are most active at night, especially in the warmer months. They are attracted to light, so it’s common to see them around streetlamps and security lights. Mole crickets can be controlled by a number of sprays and baits, but application should be at night and when the temperature reaches at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Baits are most effective from June through September, when fast growing nymphs need more food. These applications work the best when applied after rainfall, when soil moisture is optimum. Soil moisture assists in penetration of both sprays and bait. However, do not water your lawn immediately after applying the treatment.

If you suspect mole crickets in your lawn, there is a screening method to detect activity known as the two method. This method calls for mixing 2 gallons of water with 2 ounces of dish detergent. Apply mixture to a 2x2 feet area that you suspect. Observe the area for two minutes. Mole crickets will emerge to the surface of the lawn, if present.

It’s important to note that often times, when mole crickets appear in a lawn, so do moles. Moles crickets are a favorite menu item of the mole. Therefore, if you control the mole cricket population in your lawn, the less likely you’ll have a mole problem.

For more information regarding mole crickets, please see the Integrated Pest Management publication, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/IN/IN102100.pdf.

An Equal Opportunity Institution. UF/IFAS Extension, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension. Single copies of UF/IFAS Extension publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county UF/IFAS Extension offices.