Melanogryllus desertus Pall. - Steppe Cricket, Desert Cricket

Systematic position.

Class Insecta, order Orthoptera, superfamily Grylloidea, family Gryllidae, genus Melanogryllus.

Biological group.

Polyphagous pest.

Morphology and biology.

Large black insect, 12-19 mm in size, with a round hypognathous head. Mouth parts are gnawing, antennae are longer than body. Thorax is large, with a strongly developed pronotum covering the major part of the thorax from above. Lateral parts of pronotum hang over, forming lateral lobes covering prothorax from the sides. Meso- and metathorax are tightly merged, their pleural parts sharply subdivided by oblique or vertical sutures into episternum and epimere. Abdomen is elongated, cylindrical, composed of 10 tergites and 8-9 sternites. The last sternite is referred to as the genital plate. Appendages of the female abdominal apex are cerci and ovipositor. Dense decumbent hairs cover hind tibiae, femora and abdomen from below. Fore tibia bears tympanum. Hind legs are hopping, possessing reinforced and elongated femora and elongated tibiae; fore legs are walking. Hind femora are black from below, sometimes with just a brownish keel. Wing sheaths have no light spots at the base, being well developed (then wings are longer than sheaths) or halved (then wings are absent). During a season, only one generation develops. Last instar larvae hibernate in holes up to 40 cm deep. Over 30 individuals can hibernate in deeper holes, while few or even single crickets overwinter in small holes. They emerge early in the spring and molt to adult the end of July . beginning of May. Adults lay eggs by one or by groups of 3-5 in the end of July - June. Soon after oviposition, the adults perish.


The Steppe Cricket is distributed in forest-steppes, steppes, and deserts in the north of Africa, in the south of western Europe, in Western Asia; on the former USSR territory, its area covers the south of European part (steppe zone of Ukraine, Crimea), the Caucasus, Kazakhstan, Middle Asia, and Western Siberia.


Crickets dwell mainly in moist places; i.e., by riversides, on the edges of irrigation net, in places with high subterranean waters, as well as on plots with large soil pieces, rocks, cracked soil, and an abundance of forage plants. They are active at night, hiding in holes and shaded places during daylight. Main enemies of crickets are birds.

Economic significance.

Steppe Cricket damages cotton, sunflower, tobacco, sesame, flax, and cucurbitaceous, cereal, truck and technical crops. They can also damage orchard crops and grapes, eating fruits of apple, cherry, seriously injuring flowers and even biennial vine grafts. Cotton is a severely damaged crop, especially during sprouting. They gnaw the lower parts of plants and eat up cotyledons and leaves, thus causing death and thinning of the sprouts. Recovered plants have notably retard growth and lower production. The crickets are most dangerous during watering of crops, as they escape land-flood and crowd on the elevated plots where they can completely destroy sprouts. Eating sprouts, gnawing stems by root neck, eating immature grains, damaging flowers, buds, young stems, and consuming whole plants, larvae and adults sometimes severely damage in Kazakhstan, Middle Asia, the south of European part of the former USSR, in the Caucasus and the south of Western Europe. Crickets damage various stores (dried fish, leather) and household goods (clothes, tents, sacks, etc.). Among weeds, bindweed sprouts are damaged. Wet poisoned baits are used to control the Steppe Cricket.

Reference citations:

Bei-Bienko G.Ya., ed. 1964. Keys to the insects of the European part of the USSR. V. 1. P. 205-284 (in Russian).
Chuvakhin V.S., ed. 1955. Crickets (Gryllulus desertus Pall.). In: Manual for control of pests and diseases of agricultural crops. Moscow: Sel'khozgiz. P. 395-396 (in Russian).
Ergashev N.E. 1977. Crickets (Grylloidea) of Karshinskaya steppe. Zoologicheskii zhurnal 56(3): 480-481 (in Russian).
Minoranskii V.A. 1966. Observations over Steppe Cricket (Gryllus desertus Pall.) in Rostov Region. Zoologicheskii zhurnal 45(3): 383-389 (in Russian).
Pavlovskii E.N., ed. 1949. Pest animals of Central Asia. Moscow . Leningrad: AN SSSR, p. 148-169 (in Russian).
Rodionov Z.S. 1926. Crickets as cotton pests. In: Plant protection from pests. Bull. of All-Russian Entomology-Phytopathology Congress. V. 3(2-3): 158-164 (in Russian).
Rodionov Z.S. 1926. Pests of cotton in Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan Republics in 1925. In: Plant protection from pests. Bull. of All-Russian Entomology-Phytopathology Congress. V. 3(2-3): 170-171 (in Russian).
Sergeev M.G. & Dubatolov V.V. 2000. Orthoptera collection of Siberian Zoological Museum. (in English).
Tret'yakova O.I. 1950. On damage to melons and gourds by Steppe Cricket. In: Pavlovskii E.N., ed. Reports of Tadjik Branch of AS USSR. Stalinabad: Izdatel'stvo Tadzhikskogo filiala AN SSSR, V. 28: 35-37 (in Russian).
Tulashvili N.D. 1950. Materials on biology of Steppe Cricket (Gryllulus desertus Pall.) and methods for its control under conditions of Eastern Georgia. In: Proceedings of Plant Protection Institute. V. 7. Tbilisi: Izdatel'stvo Akademii nauk Gruzinskoi SSR. P. 13-15 (in Russian).

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