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The noise of the mole cricket
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Tuesday, 12 June, 2001, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
Public wanted for bug hunt
Mole cricket NHM
The mole cricket has lost much of its natural habitat
Scientists are asking for help in saving one of Britain's biggest and rarest insects: the mole cricket.

Once common in the UK, the insect may now be close to extinction.

Much of its natural habitat - the damp margins of wet areas - has been lost as land is drained for farming.


The mole cricket is an unmistakable, monstrous burrowing, insect with huge spade-like front legs, similar to those of a mole

Bryan Pinchen, Mole Cricket Working Group
Experts at London's Natural History Museum want anyone spotting the insect to contact them, in a bid to find out how many of the creatures are left and where they thrive.

Bryan Pinchen, co-ordinator of the Mole Cricket Working Group, said: "The mole cricket is an unmistakable, monstrous, burrowing insect with huge spade-like front legs, similar to those of a mole.

"Anyone unfamiliar with the species might think it was an alien or foreign visitor but we want people to know that it is one of our rarest and most spectacular native insects.

Mole cricket NHM
Mole cricket replica
"With less than five sightings in the last 10 years, colonies need to be found and protected and we would like people to let us know immediately if they think they have seen one."

The cricket, Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa, grows up to 4.5 centimetres (1.77 inches) long, and has a brown body covered in velvety hair. Its peculiar front limbs are used to tunnel underground in search of food or to lay eggs.

The adults can fly and are attracted to light. Their call - a monotonous chirrup - can occasionally be heard on summer evenings.

The Mole Cricket
The male mole cricket's churring song can be heard on warm evenings between May and July
Mole crickets dig large tunnel systems in the ground or near the surface
They can sometimes be found under stones or other debris on the surface of damp ground
The animals are usually found near water. Recent sightings have been confirmed in Macclesfield in Cheshire, Wareham in Dorset, Luton in Bedfordshire and Chelmsford in Essex.

Anyone spotting a mole cricket is asked to send information about the discovery to the Natural History Museum.

Details should include the time of year, location, habitat and what has happened to the insect.

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