Category: Occasional Invaders
Color Brown / Tan
The orthopteran family Rhaphidophoridae includes the camel crickets, camelback crickets, cave crickets, spider_cricketspider crickets (sometimes shortened to “sprickets”) and sand treaders. In some regions, such as Virginia, these crickets are referred to as “moon hoppers”. Most are found in association with caves, animal burrows, cellars, crawl spaces, in garages, under stones, in wood or in similar environments that they can gain access to. They are characterized in part by their long antennae and legs. They may be found on all continents and many continental islands, though Africa has but one species and that is confined to the southern Cape region.
Camel crickets have very large hind legs with “drumstick-shaped” femora and long, slender antennae. They are brownish in color and rather humpbacked in appearance, always wingless, and up to two inches/5 cm long in body and 10 cm (4 inches) for the legs. On baby camel crickets the body may appear translucent. As the name implies, “cave crickets” are commonly found in caves. However, most species live in other cool, damp situations such as in wells, rotten logs, stumps and hollow trees, and under damp leaves, stones, boards, and logs. Occasionally, they prove to be a nuisance in the basements, crawl spaces and garages of homes in suburban areas.
Their distinctive limbs and antennae serve a double purpose. Typically living in a lightless environment, or active at night, they rely heavily on their sense of touch, which is limited by reach. While they have been known to take up residence in the basements of buildings, many cave crickets live out their entire lives deep inside actual caves. In those habitats they sometimes face long spans of time with insufficient access to nutrients. To avoid starvation, they have been known to devour their own extremities, even though they cannot regenerate limbs. Given their limited vision, cave crickets will often jump towards any perceived threat in an attempt to frighten it away. Although they look intimidating, they are almost completely harmless.
Cave and camel crickets are of little economic importance except as a nuisance in buildings and homes, especially basements. They are usually “accidental invaders” that wander in by mistake from adjacent areas. They generally reproduce indoors, especially in situations that provide continuous dark, moist conditions, such as a basement shower or laundry area, as well as organic debris to serve as food.
The group known as “sand treaders” are restricted to sand dunes, however, and are adapted to live in this environment; they are active only at night, and spend the day burrowed into the sand, to minimize water loss. In the large sand-dunes of California and Utah they serve as food for scorpions.
Hadenoecus is a genus of common cave cricket of the southeastern United States. The Mammoth Cave system in central Kentucky is populated by the species Hadenoecus subterraneous.
An interesting characteristic of these crickets is their long antennae and powerful rear legs which allow for quick movement in the dark cave system. When threatened, H. subterraneous will jump and turn up to 180 degrees before landing again and jumping in another direction. This is suspected to be an adaptation to escape predators.