The Jerusalem cricket is a large insect, which is also known as the potato bug. It has alternate names like earth baby, nino de la terra, or cara de nino. This last name, face of the baby, is popular because from the top of the insect, the head looks something like a young baby, though most people consider it not nearly as attractive. In fact, aside from the name, the Jerusalem cricket is more apt to give people an unpleasant surprise due to its large size and somewhat translucent amber or brown color.
Each name for the Jerusalem cricket is a little bit deceptive. They are of the genus Stenopelmatidae and they aren’t actually true crickets. They’re also not true bugs, as the name potato bug implies. They lack wings, and some people confuse them with bees. This is because their lower body many be striped with black and light brown to dark brown bands.
Some rumors have it that the Jerusalem cricket is venomous like bees or yellow jackets, yet this is not true. They can bite hard because their jaws are strong, but they tend not to want to bite humans if they’re left alone. It’s probably more likely that a Jerusalem cricket might bite an inquiring animal that decides to sniff it at.
These insects are difficult to ignore since full grown ones may be as much as 2 inches (5.08 cm) in length. You’re most likely to see them in the evening hours because they are usually nocturnal. People often see just one potato bug at a time, because these insects are not social and don’t tend to live in groups.
You’ll primarily find Jerusalem crickets in the Western United States and they also occur in Mexico, especially in areas along the Pacific coast. They don’t live anywhere near Jerusalem, which sparks some interesting questions about how they came by their most common name. There are a few colorful explanations for this name, which began being popularly used in the early 19th century.
One explanation is that when the Jerusalem cricket is resting, it resembles a type of cross called a Jerusalem cross. Another idea is that Jerusalem crickets may have eaten Jerusalem artichokes, which grow along the range of the cricket, since they primarily consume organic matter. Alternately, perhaps the funniest, though difficult to prove explanation, is that saying “Jerusalem” was a slang term to express surprise. Since these insects are large, it might be hard not to see one without letting out some sort of exclamation, though it should be remembered that these insects tend to be harmless.