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Origins and spread of SINA species that are aliens


This document covers 23 SINA-recognized alien species (12 crickets, and 11 katydids). All of their introductions are believed to be unintended rather than planned. The year of initial recognition of the presence of each species was estimated and/or documented and the species are presented below in chronological order.

Every species recognized by SINA has a species page assigned to it and is given a unique 3–digit number between 000 and 738 (its species number). The species number is used to identify all files that pertain to a species. The filename for the home page for each species ends with an a. For example, 487a and 343a are the home pages for the first two species listed below. Of the 413 species recognized by SINA, all but three have valid scientific names as recognized by OSF Online. The three lines below show the SINA common name, the scientific placement, estimated year of establishment, and home page for the three species.

Archbold alien katydid Alloteratura? sp. 1940s 093a
Alien raptorial katydid Phlugis sp. 2013 336a
Woo's katydid Phaneroptera nr. nana 2017 043a


Acheta domesticus (Linnaeus 1758) house cricket 487a

In their review of the early literature of the Orthopteroids of Canada, Vickery & Kevan (1985) report on works published as early as 1664! The earliest work dealing with house crickets that they report is Kalm (1761) whose results they describe as follows: “… in some parts of New York, and in Canada, every farmhouse and most of the houses in the towns, swarmed with crickets, which continued their “music” there throughout the whole winter and summer. He states furthermore they had, likewise, not put aside their customary bad habits (in Europe), namely, of getting among and cutting to pieces, clothes. These crickets were, at least for the most part, surely Acheta domesticus.”

The earliest, easily found records of this species in the United States are in Rehn & Hebard’s 1915 paper on the genus Gryllus. The oldest record is 1885 from San Antonio, Texas. Next oldest (1896) is St. Anthony Park, Minnesota. These two records are followed by three records from 1901: West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Thomasville, Georgia; and Lincoln, Nebraska. The species must have been introduced to the U.S. from oversees long before 1885 to have spread so widely and so far from major ports. Unintended introductions are generally assumed to have come from England, because so many of the earliest settlers came from that part of Europe. House crickets are closely associated with settlements in Europe but are thought to be native to East Africa or India. What determines their distribution is their having become favored food for insectivorous birds and mammals whether confined in homes or zoos (Weissman et. al. 2012). They are also reared and sold as fish bait, which insures that, near fishable waters far from domiciles, the cheerful chirps of males who have escaped or been released by fishers do not mean that the said crickets are of local origin. (Even though adults are macropterous they are not caught in light traps and likely never fly.)

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Neoscapteriscus abbreviatus Scudder 1869 short-winged mole cricket 343a

This and the next two species are mole crickets of the genus Neoscapteriscus. By the 1980s, these three had become major pests of Florida’s lawns, golf courses, and pastures, resulting in the State and USDA financing a program to find biological agents in their South American homelands to control them. Three such agents were successfully introduced and mole cricket damage dropped to a level low enough that insecticides are now seldom used for their control [Frank and Walker 2006].

The short-winged mole cricket cannot fly and is mostly restricted to coastal areas, in both Florida and South America. Its introduction and spread was largely a result of the use of guano deposits for fertilizer and the use of barnyard manure from areas where the species was already established. The map to the left on the map page of the species shows what are the presumed independent introductions of the species to Florida and their subsequent spread from these sites.

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Neoscapteriscus vicinus Scudder 1869 tawny mole cricket 342a

This and the southern mole cricket are strong fliers and each spread rapidly from its likely site of original introduction: namely, the port at Brunswick, Georgia. This is where ships from the South American ports at Montevideo, Uruguay, and Buenos Aires, Argentina, dumped their ballast from these ports in preparation for heavier loads of longleaf pine timber at Brunswick.

The tawny mole cricket spread more slowly than the southern mole cricket and took 61 years to reach Miami (1960-1899). See its map page for the details of the tawny mole cricket's introduction and spread.

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Neoscapteriscus borellii Giglio-Tos 1869 southern mole cricket 341a

Though apparently introduced five years later than the tawny mole cricket, the southern mole cricket spread more rapidly, reaching Miami 12 years sooner (1948).

In spite of its more rapid spread, there is evidence of three other introductions independent of the first (Walker & Nickle 1981). See the map page of the southern mole cricket for the details of its introduction and spread.

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Gryllodes sigillatus (Walker 1869) tropical house cricket 501a

This species is cosmotropical, partial to cities and permanently warm places. Where it occurs, it is often found in piles of broken concrete and in association with masonry structures.

Morgan Hebard (in Rehn & Hebard 1905) reported capturing nine specimens of this species in Miami, Florida, in February 1904, and stated that this constituted the first record of the species from the United States.

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Leptophyes punctatissima (Bosc 1792) speckled bush katydid 094a

Those who wish to identify this European species and learn of its early establishment in New England should read this account of the species in A.P. Morse’s (1920) Manual of the Orthoptera of New England. Nearly 100 years later, when citizen naturalists started submitting photos of this species to BugGuide and iNaturalist, it became evident that the species was well established not only in areas where it was known by Morse but also in sites as distant as Monroe County, New York, and Toronto, Ontario (see map).

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Gryllotalpa gryllotallpa (Linnaeus 1758) European mole cricket 363a

This cricket is widespread in Europe and was evidently imported into the United States in shipments of ornamental plants. It reached pest proportions at a nursery in Rutherford, N.J., in 1915–1918, and was collected in nearby Wallington as recently as 1960. Other U.S. records are from Nantucket, Mass., Montgomery, N.Y., and Belle Glade, Fla., and may not represent established populations. However, a 2014 email indicates that it is well established in Putnam and Westchester counties in southern NY State. (See its SINA map.)

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Phaneroptera nana Fieber 1853 Mediterranean katydid 024a

In 1952, based on specimens in the University of California collection, H. F. Strohecker (1952b) reported that Phaneroptera nana, a European species, was established in the Bay Area of California. Collection dates ranged from 1932 to 1943. The next report of the species in North America known to TJW [SINA’s editor] was from Jeff Cole, a biology student at UCLA, who sent voucher specimens to the Florida State Collection of Arthropods. His account, dated 27 Dec 2001, is here.

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Alloteratura? sp. =Archbold alien katydid 093a

Early in 2018, Brandon Woo found two female katydids in the Archbold Biological Station collection that he could not identify. When he sent Piotr Naskrecki photographs of them, he was informed that they might belong to the Old-World genus Alloteratura. Because the females had been collected five years apart (2001 and 2006) it seemed likely that a self-sustaining population of this Archbold alien katydid (AAK) had existed at Archbold during those years. Richard Archbold founded the Archbold Biological Station only after he was prevented by WWII from continuing to sponsor and participate in biological expeditions to New Guinea (Morse 2000). Thus it seemed likely that the AAK came from New Guinea—as eggs deposited in living plant material or by other means. The genus Alloteratura has 44 species (OSF) distributed throughout the Indomalayan Realm (which includes New Guinea). A search of these species for images resembling AAK revealed a female of A. sandakanae and a male of A. bakeri (see AAK species page).

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Gryllus assimilis (Fabricius 1775) Jamaican field cricket 483a

Alexander & Walker (1962), were first to recognize that this Jamaican species was established in south Florida and sometimes occurred in numbers that exceeded those of the common native species (i.e., Gryllus rubens and G. firmus). The earliest specimens thus far found in museum collections are two females taken at lights in Goulds, Dade County, Florida, 24 Jan 1941. The occurrence of this species in Texas is discussed on the Jamaican field cricket’s map page.

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Conocephalus cinereus (Thunburg 1815) Caribbean meadow katydid 232a

This species is widespread in the Caribbean. It was described from Jamaica and occurs in Cuba, but was not known to occur in the United States until Gurney (1959, pp. 78-79) reported numerous specimens collected in south Florida between 1946 and 1957 (see map).

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Cycloptiloides americanus (Saussure 1874) Saussure's scaly cricket 431a

This tiny scaly cricket (<6mm in body length) is known from the continental United States from eight specimens collected by H.F. Strohecker (1952, p. 683) in his house in Miami from March 1949 to October 1950. Because all houses in his neighborhood were built in 1948 he concluded that it was probable that the species was already present in the pine woods that were removed prior to building.

The type locality of C. americanus is Cuba and its New World distribution includes Vera Cruz, Baja California, Venezuela, and Hawaii. Love & Walker (1979, p.10) note that “Such a distribution suggests a well-traveled adventive. Perhaps americanus came to the New World in the same slave ships that brought the “American” cockroach.” They cite Rehn 1945 as stimulating this speculation.

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Tessellana tessellata (Charpentier 1825) tessellated katydid 316a

The first specimen of this circum-Mediterranean species known from North America was collected in 1951, at Placerville, California (Strohecker 1955). The collector suggested that the specimen may have come in with exotic pines that the U. S. Forest Service was importing to the area and that a single male did not demonstrate the species was established in the area. Subsequent collections revealed it was well-established in the Placerville area and had spread westward and northward from there (see map).

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Roeseliana roeselli (Hagenbach 1822) Roesel's katydid 301a

This European katydid was discovered in Montreal, Canada, in 1952 and from there spread into northeastern U.S. Then, in 2003, it was reported to be well established in northeastern Illinois. For some years there were no records for the states between New York and Illinois but the gap soon closed and by 2013 the species had spread southward into Virginia as well (see map).

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Meconema thalassinum (DeGeer 1773) drumming katydid 103a

The drumming katydid is native to Europe. It lays its eggs in crevices in bark and may have been imported to the United States as eggs on woody ornamental plants. Whatever the means, by 1957 it had become established on western Long Island, New York, and by 1980 it had extended its range to Rhode Island and to Scarsdale and Ithaca, New York. It has since been reported as far east as Michigan in the northeast U.S. and in several localities in the vicinity of Vancouver on the West Coast. See map and, beneath it, a discussion of the possible occurrence of a second species of Meconema in North America.)

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Velarifictorus micado (Saussure 1877) Japanese burrowing cricket 551a

This species, native to Japan, was first discovered in the United States in 1959 (Alexander & Walker 1962). By 1977 it had become established in the District of Columbia and at least 23 counties in 6 southeastern states (Walker 1977). Its rapid spread was probably by overwintering eggs in soil in the root balls of ornamental shrubs shipped from nurseries near Mobile, Alabama. The largely suburban and spotty distribution of V. micado agrees with this scenario. For the known distribution of the species at 1977, 2003, 2017, and 2018, see its SINA map page.

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Saga pedo (Pallas 1771) metriarchal katydid 158a

A reasonable hypothesis as to how the matriarchal katydid was brought to Jackson County, Michigan is that one or more of its eggs were in soil adhering to farm equipment returning from plowing contests in Italy. The first Michigan specimen was collected in 1970 and only six have been taken since. Unlike our native katydids and other species of Saga in Europe, the matriarchal katydid is obligatorily parthenogenetic. No males are known from here or from Europe. Even though there is no male calling song, females have prominent tympanal organs on the fore tibiae. All specimens are from Jackson County.

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Myrmecophilus americanus Saussure 1877 Old World ant cricket 395a

Wetterer & Hugel (2014) give a thorough account of the establishment of this species in North America. The earliest and the farthest north record of the species is J.C. Trager’s 1984 record of the species’ occurrence in Gainesville, Florida. Otherwise, the earliest North American records of this species were by Mark Deyrup, during 1989-2000 outside buildings at Archbold Biological Station (Highlands County). All of Deyrup’s collections occurred when the Old World ant Paratrechina longicornis was swarming after their colonies had been disturbed. These and later records are shown on this map.

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Xenogryllus unipartitus (Karney 1915) lychee bush cricket 679a

The lychee bush cricket was evidently introduced in 1993 from Taiwan, as eggs on illegally imported lychee budwood. The budwood was used to reestablish lychee groves at Homewood, Florida, where they had been destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in August 1992. Thus far, the species has not been seen or heard outside of Dade County. (It was checked for its existence there in 1997 when TJW heard it at scattered localities in Homestead, occupying an area of about 2000 acreas (∽810 hectares). Details concerning the identification of the lychee bush cricket as Xenogryllus unipartitus are at its species page under Remarks.

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Conocephalus dorsalis (Latreille 1804) Eurasian meadow katydid 202a

This species was first recorded at a few islands in the Delta of the Fraser River in 2008. Since then it has been found in the nearby city of Vancouver and 65 km away in the city of Victoria. It is likely that it also occurs in adjacent Washington State. At most locations, C. dorsalis is greatly outnumbered by C. fasciatus (Miskelly 2013). For additional information about the Eurasian meadow katydid, visit its SINA species page.

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Anaxipha calusa Walker & Funk 2014 Calusa trig 636a

This species was first found at a campground in the Big Cypress portion of the Everglades and identified by song as common in cypress stands along the Loop Road (largely in Dade County). Its likely origin is tropical America. Specimens similar in appearance and song are known from greenhouses in Ontario, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica. Additional information about this species can be found in Walker & Funk (2014) and its extensive Supplementary Materials.

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Phlugis sp. ("alien raptorial katydid") 336a

Phlugis belongs to the subfamily Listroscelidinae, which is represented in North America by two species of robust and fearsome arid-land katydids (see the males of the lesser and the greater species displaying). On the other hand, species of Phlugis are small and delicate and none are known from arid lands (or cold ones). Nonetheless, between June 2013 September 2017, three specimens of Phlugis have been collected near the eastern edge of the Everglades in south Florida. The facts and some speculations about the status of Phlugis in Florida can be found here.

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Phaneroptera nr. nana {P. nana complex}, Woo's katydid 043a

On 22 July 2018, at Archbold Biological Station (Highlands Co., FL), Brandon Woo collected two males of a katydid that he recognized as a member of the genus Phaneroptera. No member of this genus was previously known to occur in the state. With the help of Piotr Naskrecki, he identified it as a species close to P. nana but one that was distinguished from P. nana by details of the male terminalia. For an easy comparison of the male terminalia of Woo’s vs. Mediterranean katydids see the 3rd and 4th images of the species page of either taxon. The genus Phaneroptera has no New World species and the structure of their tarsi differs from all native New-World Phaneropterinae. This enabled Woo to extend the known range of Woo’s katydid in the Florida peninsula by identifying iNaturalist photographs of a female and two late nymphal female instars. (images 5-9 in the plate of 16 on the species page). This extended the range of the species from Lakeland (Poke Co.) on the north to Miami (Dade Co.) on the south (see map). A Palm Beach Co. female, photographed in Wellington on 26 Oct 2017, is the earliest evidence of this species in North America.

Before you browse SINA's alien section be sure you read its Preface.