UC Cooperative Extension Ventura County
669 County Square Drive Suite 100
Ventura CA 93003
Monday - Thursday: 8 am to 5 pm
Friday: 8 am to noon or by appointment
Potato bugs, also known as Jerusalem crickets, are part of the same group of insects that include house crickets, grasshoppers, and katydids. Potato bugs are usually found in burrows, which they make in the soil under wood piles, boards, leaf litter, rocks, and piles of trash. A grassy pasture area also provides good habitat. This insect is nocturnal in habit, so is not often seen, unless you disturb their burrow or catch one crawling about in the evening or early morning. Their normal diet is plant material such as fruit, vegetables, grass roots, earthworms, and any small insect they can catch. They make good pets for a terrarium and will survive nicely on bits of fruit, vegetables, and any kind of meat. They are somewhat scary looking and will rise up on their hind legs and jump at whatever disturbs or annoys them. They can also make a sound like sandpaper rubbed together. They can damage fruit and vegetables in the garden and can become a real problem by chewing holes in drip tape. They are not poisonous, but they have very strong jaws and will bite if handled carelessly or squeezed. If control is needed, start by cleaning up trash, dead grass, leaf litter, etc., around your home and garden. If further efforts are needed, a bait should help reduce the population.