One of the most frequently asked questions about The Red Hourglass concerns the identity of the “cricket beast.” This mysterious critter, which I found crawling across my driveway after a rain, surprised me with its size, and then with its predatory prowess: it devoured a sizeable mantis, face first, leaving nothing but its wings.
The “cricket beast” was a Mormon cricket. It’s a kind of katydid, and it’s common in the Southwest, though I had seen only a few in Oklahoma—and none so huge. Mormon crickets usually eat plants. Their populations explode into plagues, much like flightless swarms of grasshoppers, and when that happens they devour carrion, other insects, and each other. According to Klauber’s classic work on rattlesnakes, masses of Mormon crickets have been observed eating these reptiles. It’s not clear whether the crickets actually killed the rattlers or simply scavenged them.
According to a Wikipedia entry, swarming Mormon crickets can be a traffic hazard, both by scaring the driver and by coating the road with their slick guts.