So, you might have seen these enormous critters found in Joburg during the rainy summer months commonly known as the Parktown Prawn or King Cricket. They look almost like oversized cockroaches, but they aren’t. This article will help you identify what they are.
What they are?
Parktown Prawns are of the species Libanasidus Vittatus (Kirby), also known as King Crickets belonging to the Family Anostostomatidae. They are predominantly found in Gardens and are fancied by gardeners since they are Omnivores who eat snails and most garden insects. Parktown Prawns were first discovered in Barberton, Mpumalanga in 1899 by William Kirby who was an English entomologist and folklorist. When Kirby named this insect in 1899, he designated it to the family Stenopelmatidae and there was a debate on the matter until it was resolved in 1987 when Peter Johns (University of Canterbury, New Zealand) concluded that the Parktown Prawns belongs to the family Anostostomatidae and that they are distinct from the Jerusalem crickets from which they were assumed to be directly related.
But where is home?
These pests are originally from Mpumalanga and are believed to have spread to Johannesburg, looking for a better life in the 1960s. Luckily (for them) the Parktown Prawns succeeded in trying to find a life in the City of Gold. It is here that they made a name for themselves as Parktown Prawns or King of the crickets.
The structural makeup
The king of Crickets has a colossal size of around 6 to 7 cm in length and can grow up to 12.7 cm, with some even larger than that. It sports long, whip-like antennae, almost as long as its body. Possessing a bright orange exoskeleton, it has signature black or brown stripes flowing across its abdomen. Parktown Prawns can jump high and when threatened they have a tendency to squirt foul-smelling black faecal matter quite far. They are even believed to have been the inspiration behind the movie District 9’s prawn alien species.
Their strong structural makeup allows them to survive several attacks so please forget about squashing them because, unlike cockroaches, these folks don’t die from being crushed.
Due to its scary appearances, humans generally fear these overhyped nasty critters. Contrary to popular belief, Parktown Prawns have never been responsible for anyone being hospitalised (as far as we know).
Words from the people
We went on Twitter to check what everyone is saying about this pest and people expressed their fears and anger towards this “Alien Invasion” Here goes…
Now that you know a bit more about Parktown Prawns, we would love to hear about your experiences, tell us more on Facebook and remember, they are not quite the bad guys that everyone makes them out to be.