How can I manage Jerusalem crickets in strawberries?
Answer: These insects, sometimes called “children of the earth” because their oversized, round head with two, bead-like black eyes gives them a fancied resemblance to a miniature child. They are pale yellow to brown in color. These crickets are wingless as adults and have large, stout legs with spines at their tips used for burrowing into the soil. Jerusalem crickets are active at night and seldom seen, except by gardeners digging in the soil. Unlike other crickets, these insects are useful predators, catching and eating many other insects, spiders, and worms. With their strong legs and jaws, they burrow into the soil and feed on roots and tubers as well. They may also feed on dead insects and debris. Your first step should be to ensure that your pest is indeed Jerusalem crickets. Because Jerusalem crickets are not commonly found as pests, there are very few strategies developed to combat them using organic or biological controls, and there is very little written material about chemical controls of these insects for the same reason.Because they are generally shy of light, they will most likely feed at night, so that is when control measures should be implemented. If your strawberry production is very small-scale, then it will be feasible to survey your plants at night with a flashlight and, with a gloved hand, pick the crickets from your strawberries and put them into a pail of water mixed with a small amount of detergent. These insects will generally live under stones or in loose soil, so you might want to check under stones around your strawberries to destroy these insects. If the scale of your operation does not permit hand-picking, other options are to disk the soil adjacent to the strawberry beds to destroy them through the action of disking, as well as to expose them to predation by birds.An additional approach is to alter the ecology of the strawberry production area so that it does not favor these insects. Remove sources of “living space,” such as stones, mulch, or other materials that they could burrow under. They prefer damp, sandy, or loose soil, so some mild soil compaction and reducing soil moisture may provide some control. Another suggestion would be after the strawberries are out, rip the field with a chisel plow in order to expose the crickets to birds and other predators. This would also disrupt their lifecycle, which is very slow?it can take up to three years to reproduce and have a new generation. Rotate away from the present location to a place that does not have the populations of this pest to carry over into the next planting. These insects disperse very slowly, as they are flightless. If these insects are chewing on your drip tape, which can be a problem with them, you can use a heavier gauge drip tape in the future. Neem and Pyganic pesticides are listed for crickets, but we are unsure of their effectiveness on Jeruselum cricket. Again, the challenges lie in exposing them to the pesticide because they reside in the soil. Night spraying would be best.Spinosad Seduce is a new commercial bait available from Certis. It is labeled for both onions and cutworms, so its use should be legal in all states. The product has not received much testing in university trials yet, but farmers are reporting good results.Seduce is labeled on strawberries for cutworms and earwigs, but not for crickets (although it might still work on crickets). You can view the label here: http://certisusa.com/pdf-labels/Seduce_label.pdfMention of any specific product does not constitute an endorsement by NCAT, ATTRA, or USDA.