Also called the Sand Cricket and Potato Bug, this relative of the grasshopper, katydid, cricket, roach, and preying mantis is most frequently seen by gardeners turning soil. Although it can’t fly, sing, or jump, its powerful legs give it good digging power and the heavy mandibles are effective for chewing roots and tubers (potato).
A western species, occurring mainly along the Pacific Coast, this bizarre-looking creature, which may be 2 inches long, emerges from underground at night and frequently is eaten by Barn and Burrowing Owls. Coyote, fox, and badger are probably regular nocturnal predators also.
Its size and appearance, especially the huge, bald, “humanoid” head and the stout spiny legs suggest that it is dangerous, but, although its powerful jaws could pinch a finger, it is a harmless native. Early Californians gave it the names Woh-tzi-Neh (“Old Baldheaded Man”) and Nina de la Tierra (“Child of the Earth”).