Potato Bug Facts That'll Change Your Perception About Them

Potato Bug Facts
The potato bug is mostly found in moist conditions, where there is an abundance of organic material. Some facts about the potato bug are its large head, ability to produce characteristic sounds and emission of foul odor.
Gardenerdy Staff
Last Updated: Mar 19, 2018
The term 'potato bug' could be used for referring to Jerusalem cricket, Armadillidium vulgare (also called pill bug, roly poly, sowbug), or Colorado beetle. Here are some interesting facts associated with the Jerusalem cricket. Jerusalem cricket is not a pest of potato plant or tubers. Neither it is indigenous to Jerusalem, nor it is a bug or cricket.
Facts about Jerusalem Cricket
antenna insect
A potato bug is brown in color with black stripes on the back and whitish-colored belly. At maturity, it grows to about 3 inches long. The thick legs of potato bug help in burrowing the soil for hunting food and hiding purpose.
Taxonomy and Classification
As per entomological taxonomy, the potato bug belongs to the family Stenopelmatidae of the order Orthoptera (having incomplete metamorphosis). All types of potato bugs are grouped under the genus name Stenopelmatus, whereas species name varies with respect to the particular type. You can identify them from the extraordinary large heads with distinctive black eyes.
Life Cycle
Similar to true crickets, the metamorphosis of the potato bug is not complete. Egg is the first stage in its life cycle. In the fall, several oval-shaped eggs are laid in the soil by the female adult. An egg hatches into a nymph only at the arrival of favorable environmental conditions, preferably in spring. The nymph stage continues for more than 2 years, after which the bug emerges as an adult.
bug diet
The potato bug is nocturnal in habit and remains active only at nighttime. Primary diet of this insect is dead organic matter, including decaying vegetative matter and plant parts. The extra long mandibles serve as an adaptation for devouring on organic matter. However, at times of food scarcity, potato bug feeds on other insects.
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Bite and Toxicity
Native to Mexico and western United states, a bite by a potato bug is more common in those areas. In spite of its scary appearance with prominent mandibles, potato bug is not poisonous or venomous. Nevertheless, the bite elicits a painful condition, similar to other insect bites.
Infestation by potato bugs is common in flower and vegetable gardens, where there is plenty of decaying plant roots and organic material. You can find them in moist soil or under thick vegetation. Very often, they hide in burrows and holes. To be more precise, infestation of potato bugs occur in areas where there is an ample amount of food source. Hence, it is rarely visible in and around the house.
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Potato Bug Control
Controlling potato bugs is not necessary as it does little harm to the home and garden. If at all, it causes devastating damage to the garden plants, you can practice common pest control methods to get rid of potato bugs. In case, you notice them in your house, make sure to keep the rooms and surrounding environment dry. Do not confuse harmless potato bugs with pill bugs (Armadillidium species) or Colorado potato beetles (Leptinotarsa species).