King of the Crickets: the Menacing Parktown Prawn

As eminently depicted in District 9, and much to the fear of local residents, Johannesburg is home to the loathsome and most terrifying insect of them all – the Parktown Prawn.

As if the idea of a super-sized fighter cricket is not enough, I know of a grown man who, trembling under the watch of a Parktown Prawn is able to travel from a standing to a sitting-on-the-table position in under 0.2 seconds! These disgusting pests – featured as alien prawns in the movie, District 9 –are known to jump up to a distance of around a meter into the air when they are cornered, and also tend to excrete revolting black faecal liquids when threatened. Furthermore, Parktown Prawns produce hissing sounds by rubbing their hind legs against their abdomen when they are distressed (Intekom, 1999).

Although doom and gloom surrounds the Parktown Prawn, they feed on garden snails, vegetable matter, and fallen fruit, thus implementing their own form of pest control. Unfortunately for us, they also like to feed on rugs and textiles, wooden elements such as floor boards and furniture as well as pet food and dry oatmeal.

Discovered by William Forsell Kirby in 1899 in Baberton, Mpumalanga, Parktown Prawns became synonymous with the suburb (Parktown in Johannesburg) after the 1960’s, when they expanded rapidly in ‘prawn count’. This insect has a preference for the lush, leafy region of Johannesburg.

The Parktown Prawn (Libanasidus vittatus)  is – of course – not a prawn at all, but actually a six-legged insect belonging to the King Cricket family, Anastostomatidae. Today, the first discovered Parktown Prawn is housed in the Natural History Museum of London.

Parktown Prawns possess similar “ears” – located on their front legs – to those of crickets and long-horned grasshoppers. Parktown Prawns are orange to brown in colour, with darker brown to black stripes across their abdomen and are around 6-7 cm’s in size (or in some cases – even larger!) with antennae the size of their body. Male Parktown prawns have large tusk-like mandibles with which they grip and throw their prey over their shoulders! Females on the other hand, possess a finely honed ovipositor of around 19mm, with which they lay around 80 to 200 eggs.

Wondering how to get rid of Parktown Prawns? As humans find these crawling insects (or should we say – ‘jumping insects!’) to be hideously scary, Hadidas seem to think they make the perfect mid-morning snack. These unsung heroes may help the casual intruder from entering your home but if you do encounter a more serious infestation of the third kind, contact the pest control experts for a solution to eliminate these critters from your home.

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