Have You Seen This Crazy-Looking Bug in Your Garden?

When is a potato bug not a potato bug? When it's actually a Jerusalem cricket, an entirely different bug altogether that often gets lumped together with the Colorado potato beetle.

Jerusalem crickets are large and intimidating alien-like insects with humanoid heads, but despite their sinister appearance, they're harmless (and even beneficial in the garden) and won't bite unless provoked.

Here's what you need to know about Jerusalem crickets and what to do if it bites you.

Jerusalem crickets are subterranean nocturnal insects that look like a cross of a large ant and fat wasp. They have disproportionately large, humanoid heads and strong, sizable mandibles and can grow up to 3 inches in length, adding to the shock factor.

Because of their eerie appearance (and the foul odor they emit when they feel threatened), Jerusalem crickets are also known as skunk bugs, skull bugs, mother of scorpion, or “what the f@&# is that?!”

The Jerusalem part is still a mystery, but one possibility is that the insects’ bodies resemble a Jerusalem cross. Or, the name could be derived from yelps of “Jerusalem!” by startled people in the 19th century when they came across these unique bugs.

While Jerusalem crickets have occasionally damaged commercial potato fields, they are not considered serious pests like the Colorado potato beetle (you know, the other potato bug that gives this one a bad name).

In fact, Jerusalem crickets should be thought of as beneficial insects, as they feed on decaying plant matter, dead roots, and small insects. By breaking down organic matter and burrowing underground, Jerusalem crickets actually help with plant growth and soil aeration.

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