Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2008
* Japanese name: Kamadouma
* Scientific name: Atachycines apicalis
* Description: A hump-backed insect with huge hind legs and long, sweeping antennae, the cave cricket is easily recognizable. It is brown, wingless, and the body is 3-4 cm long. The hind legs, with the femurs shaped like chicken drumsticks, are up to 8 cm long. The eyes are small and the insect has poor vision, relying on its antennae for sensory information. If startled it may leap in the direction of the perceived threat, in an apparent attempt to scare the potential predator. But don't worry, cave crickets are harmless.
* Where to find them: They are all over Japan, from Hokkaido to Kyushu. Despite the name, this insect is probably more likely to be seen in a toilet than a cave, hence its other, somewhat derogatory name benjo-mushi (toilet insect). Unfortunately the cave cricket doesn't have a good reputation in Japan, being considered by many to be as bad as the cockroach. Cool and damp places, such as cellars and under stones, logs and in rotten trees and animal burrows are other favored habitats.
* Food: Detritus and organic debris, such as bits of wood, decaying animal parts and plant matter.
* Special features: Cave crickets live in dark places and are active at night. Like a blind person feeling their way with a stick, they rely on their sense of touch to get around in the world. The antennae constantly wave around in front of the animal, and the long legs allow it to both gingerly feel the terrain, and to leap away in case of danger. As well as being dark, caves (and toilets) generally don't have copious supplies of food, so the insect sometimes goes for long periods without sustenance. There are reports that it will eat its own legs if in dire need, but if you are dying of hunger it's not going to help things to damage yourself and impair your ability to move about. Even if food becomes available, the damage would be permanent, as cave crickets can't regenerate limbs.
PHOTO COURTESY OF BIO-IMAGE NET