10 Predators that eat crickets {Do humans eat them as well?}

Most cricket species are defenseless insect types, as their only protection strategies are camouflaging in their habitats and their strong rear legs to help them jump away when they encounter dangerous situations. If one of their legs is caught, it is easy for them to release the leg and live with their remaining 5 legs. Due to their limited defenses, they are potential prey targets for a wide range of animals from other insects to humans, although their high population is a good indicator of their resourcefulness when avoiding their enemies.

The predators of the cricket include birds, salamanders, toads, mice, rats, shrews, bats, small snakes, and frogs. Additional predators include lizards, humans, mantids, ground beetles, spiders, and wasps.

Crickets themselves will prefer consuming an omnivorous diet, as they can eat small insects as well as leaves, fruits, nectar, and seeds.

Main predators of crickets

  1. Frogs

These amphibians are more ‘generalist’ predators, since they will eat almost anything they encounter in the wild, especially live insects. Among their food choices, they will include butterflies, grasshoppers, spiders, and crickets, as long as they can fit into their mouths. They will also include aquatic invertebrates on their list of prey.

In particular, crickets are a major part of their diet, more than any other insect. When they are still young, they eat algae and pond plants, but they become carnivorous as they develop into adults. Aside from crickets, they will also consume other live prey including larvae, dragonflies, termites, slugs, snails, worms, and spiders, with the choice of prey depending on the frog’s size.

Using their soft and long tongues, frogs can catch and eat crickets in the span of a few seconds. Their tongues function similar to bungee ropes covered in very strong glue, which allows them to catch the insect without using much energy. Once the tongue grasps the cricket and brings it into the frog’s mouth, the saliva will then turn watery to release the insect.

Crickets make the staple of the frog diet due to their high availability and their nutrient content. Cricket bodies contain both chitin and protein, which can be advantageous to their growth, while the inclusion of other insects and invertebrates balances out their nutritional needs.

  1. Lizards

Among the reptilian group of animals, lizards are the largest in number, with more than 5,000 species in existence and a wide habitat range that spans all the continents except Antarctica. They follow an omnivorous diet, which means they can consume both animal and plant matter depending on what their environments offer.

Numerous lizard species will feed on different insects, and the insects they consume depend on the location. Common insects include cockroaches, spiders, ants, grasshoppers, worms, flies, and crickets, although they will avoid eating some insects like lightning bugs because they are poisonous to them.

Lizards tend to lie patiently in wait for their prey, and cricket catching involves camouflaging with their surroundings to avoid their target spotting them. Their tongues are similar to those of frogs, and they will use them to quickly reach their prey and catch it. Additionally, their jaws are quite strong to allow them to crush the cricket’s exoskeleton, aided by the teeth rows on the roof of their mouth, as well as their lower and upper jaws. They will then chew their food using their jaws and teeth before swallowing it.

  1. Tortoises and turtles

Although some tortoises are herbivores and feed only on plant matter, most turtles and tortoise species are omnivorous depending on the climates they live in and the foods available to them. These omnivorous tortoises will mainly feed on plants and fruits as their main food source, but will occasionally eat insects for variety.

Crickets are particularly nutritious for these reptiles, especially American and Asian box turtles and some tortoise species. While they do not have teeth, their mouths have sharp edges that they use to grab the insect, and then hold it in their strong jaws. If the cricket is sufficiently small, the tortoise or turtle can swallow it as it is, or opt to use its jaws to break it into bite-size pieces.

  1. Spiders

Spiders have segmented bodies, which is why they are classified as arachnids. They have a wide habitat range that includes all the continents except Antarctica.

Even the most common house spider you find nesting in your home is a great defense mechanism when you want to implement pest control. Almost all spiders are carnivores, and they enjoy consuming a wide variety of insects that include moths, cockroaches, flies, ants, mosquitoes, and crickets. Each spider species will have its dietary preferences, although they will hardly attack or bite humans.

Crickets are a major food source for spiders, although not all spiders consume crickets. Their hunting strategy is to camouflage themselves in their environment, as well as spinning webs to catch their targets. They will pounce on the cricket when they get close enough to it, and this is aided by the tips of their mouths that have fang-like attachments on them.

The spider uses these attachments to squash and grab their prey. One interesting fact about them is that they tend to be fussy eaters, and will only eat prey that they have killed a short while ago or live prey; they avoid eating insects that they have found dead.

  1. Salamanders

Although salamanders have a similar appearance to lizards, they are not reptiles; they are amphibians. Similar to frogs, they also catch their prey, including crickets, using their sticky and long tongues when they get within striking distance of their targets.

The diet of a salamander depends on age, so very young salamanders will eat microorganisms in pond water such as cyclopes and daphnia. After some weeks, they begin consuming large daphnia, and they later start eating mosquito larvae or tubiflex worms. When they graduate to two months old, they transition fully to an adult salamander’s diet, which is entirely carnivorous.

They will eat almost anything as long as it moves, including crickets, maggots, fruit flies, buffalo worms, and springtails.

  1. Birds

Numerous bird species enjoy eating insects as well, regardless of whether their main diet consists of fruits, seeds, or meat. Crickets are a particularly popular choice, as many birds feed on them during the springtime or when looking for insects to feed their young ones. Crickets also provide a crunchy snack for the young birds and the adults as well.

The most common birds that consume crickets are bluebirds and chickadees. Bluebirds are especially effective at maintaining a low population of grasshoppers, although crickets are a favorite meal for them, and they supplement their diet by eating sow bugs, ants, and snails. Chickadees are useful in the sense that they do not migrate as often as other birds, and they will stay in an area as long as they can get a steady supply of insects. There are three subspecies of chickadees: Carolina, Black-Capped, and Mountain ones.

All their subspecies will give some control mechanism over a variety of insects including crickets, caterpillars, moths, aphids, and leafhoppers. During the winter months they will seek out the crevices in trees to look for hibernating adults and insect eggs, which prevents sudden population increases during the springtime.

In terms of hunting methods, birds will look for crickets and other insects using one of three methods:

  • Gleaning: Is a foraging method that birds use to pick crickets off the ground, tree branches and trunks, rocks, flowers, and leaves. You will see then darting, hanging upside down, hopping, or hovering over plants and exploring them to see if there are any insects.
  • Probing: Birds do this by poking their beaks beneath the ground surface or into crevices to locate insects. An example of this would be shorebirds, which can probe into sand or mud when looking for invertebrates such as worms and insect larvae.
  • Sallying and hawking: Some birds like Sallyers and hawks will snatch their prey from mid-air, including crickets. They then eat the insects while in the air as they continue looking for food, or can land on a perch to eat then continue afterwards. Another hawking example is nighthawks, which have very sticky and large mouths to eat thousands of insects at a time.

Other birds that eat crickets include blackbirds, chickens, and turkeys, as long as they come across them.

  1. Snakes

All snakes are carnivorous, and will follow a diet that consists mostly of live animals such as rodents. However, some snake species can consume insects, especially the smaller ones like the Corn snake, the Milk snake, and the Garter snake. As for larger snakes like Boa constrictors and cobras, they will not seek out insects like crickets as much when they are adults, as their larger size requires more protein sources.

While many snakes will eat insects, they can only consider them as snacks due to their nutritional requirements, and therefore crickets cannot make up a major part of their diet, for instance. Many species will also eat insects when they are still young before moving on to bigger prey afterwards. An interesting fact is that there is a snake species that only consumes crickets, and it only lives on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico.

  1. Bats

Although there are thousands of bat species that eat different food types, there is a significant number of them whose primary diet consists of insects, including crickets. For insectivore bats, they will also consume mosquitoes, moths, and many more, and they particularly enjoy night-flying insects.

Bats use echolocation to detect insects, and with crickets the work is even easier due to the sounds the insects make at night. Estimations assume that bats can eat up to 8,000 insects every night in general, with most of them comprising of mosquitos. When they locate their target insect, they will swoop and snatch it using their tails rather than their teeth; and then they will land on a perch and eat it.

If the insect is on the ground, the bat may choose to dive and surprise it. However, they will not use their tails to catch it in this case: instead, they will use their small, yet razor-sharp teeth to bite and chew it. They will remain on the ground long enough to finish their meal of choice, then fly to look for their next target.

  1. Shrews

Shrews, like most cricket predators on this list, are found throughout the world and are well-known as fierce carnivores despite their size. They are quite different from their cousins, the mice, due to their small ears and eyes as well as their pointed snouts and sharp teeth.

A large portion of their diet consists of insect larvae and insects. These options include wasps, moths, grasshoppers, crickets, butterflies, beetles, and bees, as well as their larvae. There are some shrew species such as the southern short-tail shrew that also consume ants. It is good to note that shrews require high amounts of food every day, and they can easily starve to death if they do not eat after every few hours due to their high metabolisms. Therefore, crickets provide a nutritionally-dense food source for them, and this is why they prefer eating them frequently.

  1. Mantis

Contrary to their small size, mantids are among the toughest predators when compared to both their fellow insects and the world in general. Their mode of operation involves lying in wait in plant undergrowth or next to leaves and stems, then waiting for their prey to come close enough before they strike in lightning speed.

Crickets are an easy target for the mantis due to several reasons. One is the incessant noise that crickets make throughout the day and particularly at night, and the second reason is their tendency to hop around in plant shrubbery and on the ground. The third reason is their poor defense mechanism of ‘freezing’ when they sense a mid- or low-level threat, although they can fly or jump away when the threat is more serious.

Thanks to their preferences in habitats and roaming spaces, as well as their ‘freezing’ tendencies, it is easy for mantids to spot crickets quickly and attack them before they can react.

Aside from crickets, a mantis will eat almost anything that moves due to their generalist diet. These include butterflies, larvae, worms, flies, moths, wasps, eggs, locusts, and grasshoppers, as well as many other insects. Mantids are also able to catch their prey due to their unique ability to rotate their heads, and their pincer-like forearms are useful when catching their target.

Do humans consume crickets?

While the idea of eating an insect may repulse many people, the reality is that crickets are an expensive delicacy, and plenty of work goes into preparing them for eating. They are a popular choice in many human diets around the world because they are a prominent source of macro-nutrients, minerals, and important vitamins.

There are various ways that people consume crickets. These include:

  • Cooking: Cooked crickets are a very popular addition to seasoning mixes, stews, soups, and salads.
  • Baking: Most baking recipes involve flour as a base ingredient, but crickets can be a worthwhile substitute. You can use them in a recipe by dry roasting and grounding them, and then mixing with flour to act as a substitute for nuts to create a tastier equivalent that has higher protein content. This is particularly useful to people struggling with allergies to nuts.
  • As a snack: In many countries around the world that consume insects, it is common to find cricket snacks among their enjoyable delicacies. These come in the form of chocolate-dipped insects, roasting them with sugar and cinnamon, or using a syrup to make them into sweet candies. To make them as a savory snack, you can sauté them in some sea salt, balsamic vinegar, or butter.
  • In form of ‘flour’: For people who are queasy about eating insects, grounding crickets into flour is the best way to ease them into eating alternative protein sources. You first dry roast them at 350 degrees alongside other seasonings until they dry out, and then grind them into a fine powder using a spice grinder or blender. The result is a very versatile flour that you can add to baking recipes, pasta sauces, moles, and pesto, among other dishes.

Different cricket predators and their main diet consumption

Animal
Main diet
Frogs
Carnivorous
Lizards
Mostly omnivorous. Some are carnivorous as well.
Turtles and tortoises
Omnivorous
Spiders
Carnivorous, mostly consuming insects
Salamanders
Carnivorous
Birds
Varies on diet, though most consume insects
Snakes
Carnivorous
Bats
Varies on diet, though some consume insects
Shrews
Insectivorous
Mantis
Insectivorous

Conclusion

Crickets have a large number of predators in the wild, as well as humans who consume them due to their high nutritional value. They are also under threat by parasites, which can kill them easily when they attack the living body of the insect

FAQs

What is the most common bird that eats crickets?

The most common is the bluebird, which also eats moths, larvae, beetles, and grasshoppers. Other birds include hawks and owls.

Which animals eat crickets as a major part of their diet?

These are mainly mantids, salamanders, spiders, and lizards. These consume large numbers of crickets, and can work as cricket population regulators.