What are Crickets?
Crickets are a distant relation of grasshoppers. Over 900 different species have currently been identified by scientists. This is one of roughly 2,400 species found all over the world of leaping insects. These insects belong to the Gryllidae family, and are identified by the chirping sounds made by the male. Crickets have spread to both lower Alaska and South America.
Numerous animals prey on crickets in nature, including everything from bears to birds, making them essential for the food chain. In the wild, crickets cause a substantial amount of damage.
How to Identify Crickets
There are numerous different species of crickets. The insects are most active at night. This is when the wings of the males are used for the creation of loud chirping sounds for attracting females. They consume live and dead insects and plants.
These insects are often confused with grasshoppers due to the size and strength of the hind legs required for jumping. The biggest difference is crickets have a darker coloration and are smaller in size than grasshoppers. Some are brownish-yellow, while others are black and shiny. The average length is between three-quarters and one-inch. Crickets have two hind wings enabling them to fly and protective, rigid forewings. The antennae are extremely long, as opposed to the shorter versions found on grasshoppers.
Crickets That Eat Cannabis
Both field crickets and mole crickets are common pests for cannabis plants, and if not treated, cause issues. Field crickets are brown and black in color and are usually an inch to an inch and a half long. They have long antennae and six legs. Field crickets are omnivorous, meaning they will eat plants and other insects. All crickets thrive on weeds, making cannabis a delicacy!
Seeing that crickets are nocturnal; you will need to inspect your plants at night to determine if they are present and doing damage.
Mole crickets are prevalent in both vegetable gardens and cannabis grows. These pests are quite unique in their appearance, but as their name suggests, may be harder to identify as an issue because they spend most of their lives underground. The body of an adult mole cricket is between 1 and 2 inches in length. The eyes are small, with excellent development of the limbs for burrowing. The limbs are like small shovels.
This pest creates tunnels near the surface of the soil, severs the roots of the grass, and causes upward bulges in the earth. For this reason, it can attract unwanted critters in search of snacks. Raccoons and skunks on the hunt for food could end up damaging your plants digging for mole crickets. This species eats plant shoots and roots while tunneling in addition to grasses. Mole crickets are prominent and present the greatest challenge for anyone living in Northwest Florida.
Cricket Life Cycle
There are three life cycle stages for this insect: the eggs, nymph, and finally the adult. The lifecycle is dependent on the surroundings, usually between two to three months.
Crickets live for more than six weeks and thrive when temperatures are between 80- and 90-degrees Fahrenheit. The males attract females by rubbing their wings together.
After the mating process, eggs are laid almost constantly by fertile females. Females have an organ resembling a tube called an ovipositor. This is used for depositing eggs in damp soil. Females often lay 100 eggs during their lives, with a maximum of 200. The life of the pest begins as an egg. The egg requires about 14 days for the development into a nymph.
Nymphs appear as smaller versions of the adults, but there are notable differences. Since the development is not complete, there are no ovipositors on the females, and none of the nymphs have wings.
Nymphs are often consumed by their own species or other insects. Growth is unable to begin until the hard exoskeleton of the nymph is shed. This is referred to as molting and occurs between 8 and 10 times.
The new exoskeleton remains soft and milky white for several hours until hardening. Nymphs will not start growing wings for approximately one month. The insect is not considered mature until the wings are developed fully. The only goal of crickets is mating and eating. The males make chirping sounds for the attraction of fertile females. After mating, the female spends her life searching for areas to lay eggs.
What Does Cricket Damage Look Like?
The damage resulting from the crickets includes:
- Small holes in leaves
- Dried or dead grass
- Roots are pushed up and removed (mole crickets)
- Trails of damaged roots (mole crickets)
- Miniature tunnels in the soil (mole crickets)
The mole cricket was named for the large front claws that look like shovels. This enables the pest to move through soil easily beneath turf grass. The damage is caused in two separate ways. First, the roots of plants are pushed upward by the burrowing insects resulting in a loss of nutrients and water. Second, the roots are destroyed due to direct feeding.
Extremely small and unsightly trails are left behind in the soil in impacted areas. The trails look a lot like mini mole tunnels. There is a spongy feel to the ground with the most activity due to the numerous tunnels found under the surface of the soil. When the infestation first begins, the tunnels are usually not visible. This changes as the affected area dies because the trails left in the soil’s surface are revealed.
Most grasses are at risk. The most resistant to attack is St. Augustine grass due to the root system, and dense pattern of growth. The most susceptible grasses are Centipede and Bermuda. The signs of damage will appear much faster.
For field crickets, they are generally not harmful in small numbers but keep an eye on your plants and inspect for small holes.
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How to Kill or Get Rid of Crickets in a Garden Naturally
The best options to get rid of crickets include:
- Encouraging natural predators
- Cover plants using cheesecloth
- Set a few chickens loose in your garden
- Make sure greenhouse vents are screened
- Clear the area around your greenhouse
- Make a soap solution for placement at burrow entrances for mole crickets
Since crickets are extremely mobile, establishing control is extremely difficult. The best way to decrease the damage is by controlling population growth. A good option for outdoor gardens or crops is encouraging natural predators. Birds including larks, sparrows and swallows are excellent predators. The praying mantis, toads and small snakes will also consume crickets. Cover any vulnerable plants with a crop or cheesecloth for protection.
Raising chickens will significantly decrease the insect population in general. If possible, allow a few chickens access if you have a smaller garden for the control of numerous insects.
Adding screening for vents in your greenhouse will ensure that crickets cannot make their way in the first place. Removing vegetation up to 20 feet around your greenhouse and replacing with stone or gravel will ensure that crickets do not have an area to breed and decrease the population.
If mole crickets are suspected, confirming their presence is simple. Flush the surface of the soil with a soap and water flush. The crickets will come to the surface almost immediately. Dry soil should be watered well because mole crickets will burrow in deeper when the soil is dry. Mix two gallons of water with two tablespoons of liquid detergent. Place the mixture in a watering can, then soak an area approximately two square feet.
The penetration of the mixture will cause mole crickets to rise to the surface. Make certain to examine the area for tiny nymphs. If two to four insects appear on the surface within three minutes, there is an issue. The soap solution should also be placed at the entrance to the holes. A small stream should be poured into the holes as well. The mole crickets will be driven from their burrows with one or two liters of water. This enables the crickets to be caught and neutralized.
How to Prevent Crickets Naturally
Crickets can be prevented with any of the following options.
- Use Trifecta Crop Control as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy
- For greenhouses, make sure all open areas are screened or keep the sides of the greenhouse closed
- Biocontrol using nematodes
- Eliminate abundances of thatch
- Look for damage on a regular basis for better control
The essential oils in Trifecta Crop Control repel most pests. We always recommend using our product as a preventative for a worry-free, happy growing season! Apply as follows or click here to view and/or download our complete application guidelines.
- .5oz per gallon applied once per week during veg
- 1oz per gallon applied once per week during flower up to 2 weeks before harvest for cannabis plants. Crop Control can be applied up to the day of harvest for fruits and vegetables. Please wash your produce before consuming to remove any residual product.
The best way to control crickets is by getting rid of them as soon as possible once hatched. Decreasing the size of the population will significantly reduce the amount of damage later.
When growing in a greenhouse setting, be sure to screen all open areas or keep the sides of the greenhouse closed to prevent crickets from entering the environment.
Organic control of crickets in field and gardens is best achieved by introducing beneficial nematodes to the soil. The nematodes will devour most pests living in the surface of the soil.
Lawns or fields with a lot of thatch will attract crickets. Thatch is a spongy and thick mat of grass clippings and runners on the surface of the soil. This condition is caused by excessive fertilizer and water or mowing incorrectly.
This type of habitat is attractive for crickets, eventually resulting in deep burrows over the course of the winter months due to extensive digging. As the soil becomes warmer in the spring, crickets come to the surface to consume the grass, mostly at night. The feeding usually occurs on the top inch of the soil.