Florida Landscaping Blog
Though normally thought of as turf and forage grass pests, mole crickets are omnivorous, feeding on animal as well as plant material.
Several studies have indicated that when provided with grass or collected from grass-dominated habitats, the southern mole cricket is less damaging than the tawny mole cricket.
The southern mole cricket feeds mostly on other insects, whereas tawny mole cricket is principally herbivorous (Matheny 1981, Matheny et al. 1981, Walker and Ngo 1982). The shortwinged mole cricket also damages grasses but due to its limited range the amount of damage generally is not great.
Both the tawny and southern mole crickets are associated with tomato and strawberry fields in Florida. Among other vegetable crops reported to be injured are beet, cabbage, cantaloupe, carrot, cauliflower, collard, eggplant, kale, lettuce, onion, pepper, potato, spinach, sweet potato, tomato, and turnip. Other plants injured include chufa, peanut, strawberries, sugar cane, tobacco, and such flowers as coleus, chrysanthemum, and gypsophila. Among the turf grasses, bahiagrass and Bermudagrass are commonly injured by tawny mole cricket, whereas St. Augustinegrass and Bermudagrass are favored by the shortwinged mole cricket. Mole crickets also feed on weeds such as pigweed,
Three species of mole crickets were inadvertently introduced to the southeastern United States about 1900, and have caused serious plant damage.
The introduced species are: the shortwinged mole cricket, Scapteriscus abbreviatus Scudder; the southern mole cricket, Scapteriscus borellii Giglio-Tos (known until recently as S. acletus Rehn and Hebard); and the tawny mole cricket, Scapteriscus vicinus Scudder.
These are not the only mole crickets found in North America, but they are the most damaging. For example, a native species, the northern mole cricket, Neocurtilla hexadactyla (Perty), is widely distributed in the eastern states west to about South Dakota and Texas, and including southern Ontario, but is not a pest.
The European mole cricket, Gyllotalpa gryllotalpa (Linnaeus), has been introduced from Europe into the northeastern states, but is of minor significance. Changa, Scapteriscus didactylus (Latreille), invaded Puerto Rico from South America prior to 1800, and has caused considerable damage to crops on this island, but does not occur elsewhere in the United States.
In the years since introduction to the United States, the Scapteriscus spp. have expanded their ranges, but they differ considerably in their current distribution.
The shortwinged mole cricket, which is flightless, remains fairly confined to the southern Florida and southern Georgianortheast Florida introduction sites, though it also occurs in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. It has been redistributed in southern Florida, but is largely found in coastal areas.
In contrast, the southern mole cricket is now found from North Carolina to eastern Texas, including the northern regions of Georgia and Alabama and the entire peninsula of Florida, and recently was detected in Yuma, Arizona. The tawny mole cricket is somewhat intermediate in its spread; it occurs from North Carolina to Louisiana, and throughout Florida, but thus far remains restricted to the southern coastal plain.