Names, Origins, and Distribution of Mole Crickets

Even though newspaper reporters may write about "the mole cricket," there is no such insect. Instead, there are now 10 mole cricket species in the continental USA, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. They are called here the northern mole cricket, the western mole cricket, the prairie mole cricket, the European mole cricket, the oriental mole cricket, the short-winged mole cricket, the southern mole cricket, the West Indian mole cricket (or changa), the imitator mole cricket, and the tawny mole cricket. They differ in appearance, distribution, behavior, pest status, life-cycle, seasonality, and susceptibility to specific biological control agents.

Names of mole crickets in the USA, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.


Neocurtilla hexadactyla (Perty) northern mole cricket
Gryllotalpa cultriger Uhler western mole cricket
Gryllotalpa major Saussure prairie mole cricket
Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa (L.) European mole cricket
Gryllotalpa orientalis Burmeister oriental mole cricket*


Neoscapteriscus abbreviatus (Scudder) shortwinged mole cricket
Neoscapteriscus borellii (Giglio-Tos) southern mole cricket**
Neoscapteriscus didactylus (Latreille) West Indian mole cricket, or changa***
Neoscapteriscus imitatus (Nickle & Castner) imitator mole cricket
Neoscapteriscus vicinus (Scudder) tawny mole cricket****

*once confused with Gryllotalpa africana Palisot (African mole cricket) which does not occur in Hawaii

**the North American population of this species was known until 1992 as Scapteriscus acletus Rehn & Hebard

***confused in the economic entomology literature with N. vicinus (Scudder)

****confused in the economic entomology literature with N. didactylus (Latreille).

Origins of mole crickets


northern mole cricket (widespread in the east)
western mole cricket (uncommon)
prairie mole cricket (uncommon; a study by the US Fish & Wildlife Service concluded that it is not a threatened species)


European mole cricket (from Europe)
oriental mole cricket (from Asia)
shortwinged mole cricket (from southern South America)
southern mole cricket (from southern South America)
West Indian mole cricket (from northern South America)
imitator mole cricket (from northern South America)
tawny mole cricket (from southern South America)

Most of the immigrant species almost certainly hitchhiked in ships' ballast. The West Indian mole cricket arrived in Puerto Rico before 1797 and may have arrived long before then by flight from islands to the south. The oriental mole cricket arrived in Hawaii before 1896. The southern and tawny mole crickets arrived in Florida and Georgia about 1900, and spread north and west. The short-winged mole cricket arrived in Florida and Georgia about 1900 (but did not spread north and west of these states) and in Puerto Rico before 1917. The European mole cricket arrived in the USA in nursery stock from Holland and Belgium about 1913. The imitator mole cricket probably arrived in Puerto Rico in the 1930s.

This introduction provides general information about mole crickets.

First it identifies the homeland of the 10 mole cricket species. Then, it generalizes about a few basic facts on biology of mole crickets, and methods of sampling them and estimating their population sizes. Finally it explains why some mole crickets are pests. The 10 mole cricket species have not been studied equally: more is known about the major pests than about the others. Therefore, the section on the tawny mole cricket is much more complete than are most of the other accounts. So little is known about some of the species that generalizations about all 10 species cannot now be made. The only reasonable solution to this problem is a recommendation that all users of this knowledgebase should read the section on biology of the tawny mole cricket as a basis for understanding the biology of all the 10 species. Please select tawny mole cricket if the general information on mole cricket biology that you are looking for is not given in the following paragraphs.

Distribution of Mole Crickets in the USA, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands


northern mole cricket: eastern and central states, from NE to TX, and from Ontario (Canada) to FL
western mole cricket: uncommon along the US border with Mexico; its main distribution probably is in Mexico
prairie mole cricket: AR, KS, MO, OK


European mole cricket: MA, NJ, NY, PA
oriental mole cricket: HI
shortwinged mole cricket: FL, Puerto Rico, St. Croix (1)
southern mole cricket: FL, GA, SC, NC, AL, MS, LA, TX, AZ-CA (2,3)
West Indian mole cricket: Puerto Rico, St. Thomas, St. John
imitator mole cricket: Puerto Rico
tawny mole cricket: FL, GA, SC, NC, AL, MS, LA, TX (3)

(1) in the continental USA, almost all populations are very close to the coasts of eastern Florida and southwestern Florida

(2) The AZ-CA distribution is in the vicinity of Yuma

(3) in the continental USA, almost all populations are in light soils in the coastal plains

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