Oct 3, 2008

Potato Bug vs Puppy

The potato bug is an insect that is on my short list of most dreaded creepy crawlies. Not because they're dangerous (they don't have poison glands), and not because they swarm (they're never found in large numbers). It's because I might actually encounter one in my otherwise benign home in California.

Also known as the Jerusalem cricket (why, I don't know, since they are only found in the western portions of North America), this insect spends most of its life underground where it feeds on dead and living plant material. But they aren't considered a pest (despite being evil), given their modest population. They are large and can deliver a nasty bite (their mandibles are strong, given their application in digging), and their hind legs are covered with sharp spines. Like other crickets, they can be noisy. They drum those spikes on their abdomen.

This particular specimen was encountered by Teresa's sister's puppy near the Great Salt Lake in Utah, US. The beast was two inches long, and it hissed at the puppy. The puppy backed away and sneezed, leaving Teresa's sister to wonder if they spray anything. Do they spray? I don't think they do. It was probably just the puppy responding to a nose full of evil.

Say prayers for this little puppy. He has also recently had encounters with a tarantula and a diamondback rattlesnake. He needs all the help he can get. Thanks, Teresa.


bonni said...

It appears that Jerusalem crickets apparently "can emit a foul smell" (or so claims Wikipedia). Perhaps the puppy was just reacting to that.

I haven't seen a Jerusalem cricket in years. Wow. Blast from the past. Can't say I've missed them, really.

Lola said...

I'm in California and have encountered a potato bug just once, but it was frightening. When my son was a newborn, my sister came out to visit. She tried to help me by changing the lighting fixture in my baby's room, but the new fixture didn't fit, so I was left with a gaping hole in the ceiling after she left. During a midnight changing, I felt something large and creepy fall on my shoulder that I quickly brushed off. In the dim light, all I could see was a huge striped insect, so I got my hubby up to catch it. It took us a few days to figure out what it was, but blyeah! Was it ugly. We found out that they are sometimes called "Children of the Earth" because of their supposed resemblance to a child's face.

Zanna said...

Now that's interesting, here in the Appalachians in the eastern part of the country, I always heard "potato bug" as another name for the "pill bug" or "roly-poly"- the familiar land crustaceons found in our basements and under rocks. And looking for a link to the bug I'm talking about, I just learned that roly-poly bugs are in the family Armadilidiidae- armadillo bugs! Now why do I never hear them called *that*?

Yvonne Navarro said...

I play with crickets all the time, but you're right -- this one has an evil look about it. The striped back end smacks of waspage or bee-age. It's not something I'd be inclined to pick up, and I've picked up many a crawlie that has made The Husband shudder and flee. Encounter with a rattlesnack? Hope that puppy is okay. We caught one in the backyard and used a rake to fling it over the wall. Then we took both Great Danes to snake aversion training.

Anonymous said...

In NJ, we used to call wood lice "potato bugs". These wood-lice cousins are bigger than potatoes and you wouldn't want one in your basement:

muttz said...

Puppy was probably just reacting to the bug. My dog sneezes when he's playing with small critters he finds.

Teresa said...

The puppy won in the encounter with the rattlesnake. The snake was 2 years old, the puppy four months. He pushed it down the hill and while it was rolling, bit it's head. Puppy: 1, Snake: 0.

Erin said...

I really don't understand why so many people perceive these crickets as evil monsters. Sure, they're large and they have stripes, but the same can be said of zebras. I think their soft, rounded features give these crickets a benign, baby-like appearance.

Little Tart said...

No Erin, they are evil. Believe me. Manical even.

Growing up in the Rustbelt we called a whole different bug a Potato bug, the Armadillidiidae is it's scientific name as it turns out.

Anonymous said...

This is one of my favorite nuggets from my family's folklore:

A million years ago, when my mom and dad were newly married, my mother spotted an enormous, fuglier-than-fug potato bug (is there any other kind?) hanging on the front door of their pad. Eager to impress his bride, my father scooped the monster into a brown paper sack, hauled its ugly self to the driveway, and tucked the bag under the back tire of his Corvaire. Being the kind of guy he is (any task worth doing is worth overdoing), he went the extra mile and slowly backed the car up so that the bag...with the bug still trapped inside...was pancaked under his right rear tire.

Victorious, the mighty beast-slayer took his sweetheart to bed.

In the morning, as he left for work, there was an unexpected delay: the right rear tire of his Corvaire was flat as the bag still trapped beneath it. Once the car was jacked up, he poked the newly-freed but still flat lunch sack with a stick.

There was no trace of that damned bug...or the missing bite-sized hunk of tire.


Potato bugs ARE evil...I'll bet they keep 'em as pets in hell (*shiver*).

Anonymous said...

It's Funny I had never seen one of these ominous looking little buggers till one day I stumbled across it on you site about 6 months ago and I thought to myself that I was very greatful to have never seen one in person. and about a month ago my fiancee tells me how he feed a huge cricket that he found in our garden to his turantula. I didn't think much of it as I have seen cricket get good sized. Then last week he was cleaning out the garage and brings in the body that was nearly 4 inches long and proceeds to tell me that this is what he had found in the Garden. I cringed in terror. 10 minutes later he came in with a second body. So now I know that I must share my life with these lovely little critters. My fiancee was smart to remove the pinchers before it became food.

Anonymous said...

Here in California I also always knew Roly polys as potato bugs and loved playing with them growing up. I had never seen one until I was about 37 when my husband caught one. To me they are the scariest bug I have ever seen and the ugliest. When I searched for potato bug pictures the Roly poly came up. There is also a potato beetle which is found on the leaves of potatoes so it could be from the same family. I did look up the Woodlouse/sow bug(Roly poly, potato bug) and the name they use in Newfoundland Canada is Armadillo Bug.