Parktown Prawns: the king of the crickets. This behemoth has been the focus of one of our previous blog posts; King of the Crickets: the Menacing Parktown Prawn. Since then they have continued to cause shock and awe to those who have had the fortune (or misfortune) of witnessing this burly insect spring about in their garden. We thought we should revisit this curious creature and shed some light on the mystery that shrouds this fabled cricket.
Originally from Mpumalanga, the parktown prawn is believed to have moved down to the City of Gold (Johannesburg) in about 1960. Here it would make its name, probably seeking a better life, like many others who relocated to the city during that time. Trading the wild for the suburbs, the parktown prawn has thrived, finding a home in irrigated gardens away from most of the predators found in its natural habitat. From the wilds of Mpumalanga to the ’burbs of Johannesburg, the Parktown Prawn is truly living the ‘South African dream’.
King of the crickets
Easily identified by its colossal size, the parktown prawn is around 6 to 7 cm, with some even larger than that. It sports a long, whip-like antennae, almost as long as its body. Boasting a bright orange exoskeleton, it is likely to show of its newly found opulence, and has signature black or brown stripes running across its abdomen.
The conspicuous markings are probably for aposematic effect (warning markings to ward off predators) making it look like even insects don’t feel safe in the city! The males have a large tusk-like projection on their mandibles which are thought to be used during male sexual competitions to ultimately court their love interest. The female has sword-like ovipositor (a tubular organ through which insects deposit their eggs) which she uses it to lay between 80 to 200 eggs in damp or wet soil.
The war with Parktown Prawns
Public perception suggests that Parktown prawns are usually seen as pests, especially when they come indoors. They often jump actively; like an orange bus getting ready for the olympics, and this usually scares or annoys residents. Furthermore, they often eject offensive black fecal fluids when threatened. It would be advised not to “shoo” them away like you do with flies. To add insult to injury, they tend to chew carpets and fabrics, causing damage to your home and office. Parktown prawns are known to make their way indoors after a rainy summer’s day. Be mindful of all potential entry points into the house should you not want them inside.
The Big Friendly Giant: Parktown Prawns
Though many people see them as pests, the parktown prawn is actually very helpful; a sweet giant of sorts that can be seen as the BFG of the insect world. They do more good for your garden than you may know. Dubbed Rentokil’s “secret employee of the year”, this herculean insect eliminates more pests in your garden than we could count. Feeding on pests such as slugs, snails, and moth larvae such as cutworms, as long as you keep them away from your vegetables you can expect a clean, snail-less garden at no cost to you.
How to get rid of Parktown Prawns in your house: DIY
I recommend not killing Parktown prawns but rather humanely taking the critters outside to take care of your garden. “How do you do so?” you ask. It takes a simple yet strategic method if you want to avoid the smelly black fluid that results from scaring a Parktown prawn! I suggest using a bucket and a James Bond-esque approach. Creep up on the insect from the side and out of line of sight then quickly enclose the insect with the bucket. Slip a piece of paper underneath the bucket and there you have it; pop it outside and let it work on your garden.
Should you have an infestation needing professional help do contact the experts.
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