Tuesday, April 2, 2013

C is for Creepy Crawling Crickets (Huge Giant Crickets)

I lived in Marrero, Louisiana in the late 70s. Driving down my street one day, I noticed these huge black critters crawling up the driveways. They were everywhere. About three houses from my home (I lived on a corner lot) I spotted 4 or 5 of these huge black creepy crawlers slowly meandering up my driveway.

Needless to say, I was horrified and too afraid to get out of my car. I had never seen such a large bug in my entire life. I sat there and studied their bodies. They looked exactly like your common black cricket you generally see in the south only mutated to this giant size cricket, big enough to fit in a shoe box. They were 10 inches to a foot long. They were humongous. I'm not exaggerating.

The only pictures I can find describing these creatures are the study Loyola University has made, but the crickets on my driveway were much larger than the ones described by Loyola.
 I wish I would have thought to take a picture of them, but at the time I was terrified of them. Actually, a friend caught one, froze it, and mailed it to his dad who was a biology teacher in Utah. He had to place it in a shoe box because he was so large.

Loyola University describes them as being southeastern lubber grasshoppers, Romalea microptera, members of the short-horned grasshopper family Acrididae. We call them giant crickets. They are completely harmless, but the size of them are very intimidating.

They are not able to hop long distances, and travel at a very slow pace. I could not imagine where they came from at the time and did not have computers to research it as easily as I have been able to today.  Even though they are grasshoppers they look and act more like your common black cricket.

The only predators that have ever been mentioned to eat these large critters are loggerhead shrikes. They impale them and wait a couple of days for the toxins to break down before eating the head and abdomen, leaving the thorax where the poison glands are contained. Opossums have been known to eat them and vomit excessively afterwards.

When they feel threatened, and to ward off predators, they will spew from there thoracic region a nasty brown foamy liquid while making a loud noise.

Also, when threatened, they spit a droplet of brown liquid we call tobacco spit, because it resembles tobacco juice.

Moist grass is their most preferable habitat, but they are prevalent in the Lafitte National Park, which explains why they were in Marrero that year. Marrero is not far from the aforementioned park.

They are also known as kid critters, because they will not bite and they are sluggish. In the article, the author describes having tied matchboxes to the them and pretended they were horses pulling wagons. What a pastime, right? I think I prefer computers.

These horrifyingly large critters are actually mild and make great fun to catch and play with? I think not. I know my memory does not fail me when I tell you that the ones that year, around 1975, were shoebox size critters. Call them grasshoppers, giant crickets, whatever you want. You will never see me handle them.

I've picked up snakes, been intrigued by many strange anomalies in this great world of ours, but these crickets really creeped me out.


Marcy said...

I can't imagine finding crickets that size in my driveway. I can see why they creeped you out.

Lynn Proctor said...

yikes!!! i wonder if they bring bigger good luck ;)

CoachWalsh3 said...

Agreed! Those things are CREEPY!!
I would have freaked out and prayed that they didn't make it into the house!!

Best of luck with the rest of the challenge!

CW3 *\o/*

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Anonymous said...

Unnaturally huge anything is creepy but they look intimidating.

Spiders - they would be worse.

Patricia Lynne said...

I would probably freak out if I saw giant crickets too.

CE Francies said...

I get creeped out enough by the normal sized ones. I'm not a bug person, you can say. This was a really fascinating post, though it gave me the heebie jeebies lol.

Sharon Himsl said...

Whoa...Really creepy. Have never heard of these before!

originaloflaura said...

Yikes! Even if they're harmless, they're definitely giving me the jeeblies. Here in Texas, we just have plagues of crickets, with tons of them piling up during their breeding season. At first I thought they were cockroaches, but it turns out they are just crickets. Still gross when there are millions of them dead on your doorstep, but also harmless. Ick!