There are different species of mole crickets, but we in Central Europe only deal with one, the European mole cricket. The rather peculiar name comes from the appearance of the insect. It has big digging shovels and it also lives underground, just like a mole. The body shape is more reminiscent of a crayfish than a cricket. After all, the little animals are 4 to 6 cm long, sometimes even larger, up to 10 cm. The body is light to dark brown and has a matt sheen. The underside is significantly lighter. Typical crickets are only the sounds that the insect emits and it is also airworthy, even if it looks a bit awkward when flying, rather always shortly before the emergency landing.

Adapted to life on Earth

Mole crickets are optimally adapted to life in the earth. Diligently digging with their powerful front legs. This is how the insects get on well. In the garden, crickets prefer manure or compost heaps or the vegetable garden. No matter where they live, the mole crickets are not just diggers, they are also nest, brood, pantry and tunnel builders. Dead plant parts are used to strengthen the walls. The crickets are very busy.

Mole crickets are not vegetarians, they eat other insects, their larvae and invertebrates such as worms. Young crickets are very good swimmers and feed on aquatic insects. That is why mole crickets are particularly common where there is a lake, pond or similar nearby. Vegetable food is only accepted in emergencies.

Why is the mole cricket fought in the garden? Because they destroy and tear off the roots of plants during their digging work. Especially young seedlings and lawns suffer. There are rows of withered vegetables, plants torn from the ground and plate-sized bare patches of grass (the breeding holes are underneath). Because of this, she is hunted down and killed. This has resulted in the European mole cricket being placed on the Red List early warning list. However, she is not under protection in Germany.

Definitely fighting mole crickets?

These crickets are only harmful when they occur in large numbers. Otherwise they cause trouble in greenhouses and cold frames, the animals simply love the warmth and are really attracted there. Actually, the insects are quite rare. Many garden owners, myself included, have never seen a specimen. Actually, the mole cricket is even useful, because its favorites on the menu are grubs, snails and wireworms. If only she didn’t do so much damage. However, the damage usually only occurs when the infestation is severe. Individual animals go under, you don’t notice much of them. You should definitely let them live. If fighting, then use live traps and release again!

Natural enemies as helpers

Under the ground, the mole cricket has only the mole as an enemy. But you don’t want to promote it and have it in the garden, so you have to look above ground. Natural enemies include hedgehogs, chickens, cats, crows and blackbirds. Chickens in the garden, that doesn’t work everywhere. Even all the cats from the area are not so great in the house garden. Hedgehogs tend to be solitary except during the mating season, but it pays to make life comfortable for one or a family. They eat a lot of pests and don’t eat fruits and vegetables at all. Blackbirds are too small to be able to devour many crickets, so you would need a whole swarm to help. Crows are better, but they also rob and don’t just stick to crickets. All in all, you don’t really get far with the natural enemies, especially

nematodes

Nematodes are a safe way to deal with the crickets. Mann specifically uses SC nematodes (Steinernema carpocapsae). These can be ordered in specialist shops or on the Internet. The microscopically small bacteria are supplied in a clay mineral powder. The package can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Mix the tiny nematodes with lukewarm, stale tap or rain water and pour the affected areas. The best time to do this is in the morning or evening. If you don’t want to use a watering can because this method is sometimes imprecise, you can try a special nematode sprayer. The nematodes enter the crickets through the respiratory openings and spread through the bloodstream. The insect dies due to the proliferation of bacteria.

The best time for this type of control is before the eggs are laid, i.e. from April to June at the latest. It is mainly adult animals that are killed. Nematodes are only unreliably effective against the larvae. However, the ground temperature must be above 12° C, which is sometimes difficult. When the favorable period is over, one can still work with nematodes, but the success rate is simply lower because only adult animals are killed.

Nematodes are harmless to humans and animals. A pack of 10 million nematodes costs about 10 euros and is sufficient for 20 m². If you need more, you have to order a larger quantity. For one square meter you need 1 l of “solution”.

dig up nests

If you find a lot of mole crickets in your garden, you should look for the breeding holes. Once you’ve found a passage, they’re not difficult to spot. You take a long thin stick and search the corridors with it. There, where they suddenly branch off into the depths, there is a breeding cave exactly below. Of course you can also use your finger.

A female creates about five to seven nests. You have to find them. Often they are located in places in the ground where most of the sun gets during the day, because the caves have to be warm. They lie 5 to 30 cm below the surface of the earth.

set traps

If you want to relocate the crickets, you should try live traps. To do this, two containers with smooth walls (large preserving jars) are buried at ground level directly in the infested area. Then your thin board is placed upright in the middle of the container openings. Since the crickets like to move along an obstacle, they are guided precisely into the pits. Glasses must be checked every morning. The crickets are released somewhere on a large green lawn, far enough away from gardens.

Between April and June, i.e. during the mating season, a particularly large number of mole crickets can be caught using this method.

Butyric acid or various oils

At the moment, butyric acid is offered as a panacea against mice, moles, mole crickets and many other pests. However, one must not forget that the acid stinks, there is no other way to call it, and it can also irritate the respiratory tract and eyes. The stench is so great that it sometimes makes you want to vomit. In addition, the acid stays in the soil for months. I wouldn’t want to try that.

The same applies to the frequently recommended pouring of mineral oil or cooking oil-water mixtures into the aisles. It doesn’t break down, in the worst case it gets into the groundwater.

Conclusion
Mole crickets are very whimsical insects. Single specimens in the garden are not a problem, but when they appear en masse it becomes difficult. The insects are actually quite rare, but in some regions such as Baden-Württemberg and Brandenburg they occur in large numbers and cause a lot of damage. The best way to get the beasts out of the home garden are nematodes. But they have to be used at the right time before the crickets multiply. Experiments with different substances are not recommended. The soil takes forever to recover and in the end the groundwater is at risk.

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