The largest mole cricket in North America, prairie mole crickets can grow almost two inches long.
Mysterious Mole Cricket Spends the Majority of its Life Underground
The largest mole cricket in North America, prairie mole crickets can grow to almost two inches long. Males have fore wings modified for calls. Females are silent, but can fly, while males are earthbound. Both sexes have forelimbs adapted to burrowing.
Historically found in tallgrass prairie, the crickets are now known to inhabit parts of Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma. They are usually found only in high quality, relatively unmodified habitat like The Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie preserve in north central Oklahoma, the largest remaining continuous tract of tallgrass prairie.
Mole crickets live to be only two years old. Because the crickets are rare, nocturnal and spend the majority of their lives underground, little is known of their life cycle. They only make themselves known in the spring, when males begin to sing from specialized acoustic burrows. Males congregate in “leks” - or congregations - in the specialized burrows, calling for as long as 30 minutes each. The group can sing for up to an hour on still nights with no rain. The acoustic burrows are used only for the lek, males present only during their daily calling period and females migrating up to 3-5 miles to lay their eggs elsewhere.
The prairie mole cricket was presumed extinct in 1984. In the early 1990s, isolated populations were found, though the cricket remains extirpated from much of its historical range. It enjoys state protection in the United States. The IUCN lists it as Data Deficient, citing a dearth of detailed information on the species, which prevents it from accurately classifying its status.