I was visited by a child of the earth
Nina de la Tierra discovered!
As my girlfriend and I were sitting on our living room couch enjoying a movie on a warm evening last June, she noticed what she thought was a mouse streak across our tiled living room floor. As most women do when they see a mouse, she let out a screeching sound from her mouth that resembled an "eek!" followed by a jump onto my lap and clenching of my shirt.
I immediately jumped up and grabbed my slipper that I had slipped off while enjoying the movie. In less than second, this thing stopped in the middle of the floor and I was standing over it with my slipper. I whacked it, stunning it while my girlfriend stood nervously on the couch. This thing was still alive so I grabbed my Ortho Home Defense Max insect repellant that I kept nearby to kill crickets that came into the house and I sprayed this thing a few times. The result of the spraying is what's shown in the top picture. It definitely was not a mouse. I had never seen anything like that before but I had heard of such a thing.
What we determined it to be is called "Nina de la Tierra" in New Mexico, or "Child of the Earth". This was a legendary creature I had heard of before moving to New Mexico over a dozen years ago. I had never seen one, but apparently they existed. Now I believed the myth. The insect was about 3" in length and about an inch wide and tall. At first, I assumed this beast in the insect world was poisonous or at least some species of scorpion. Living in the desert, scorpions were not uncommon to find in the house especially at night.
So what in the world (or earth) are these things? They are called Jerusalem crickets, a large flightless insect of the genus Stenopelmatus. They live in the western United States and as far south as Mexico. They primarily are active at night and eat organic material, such as dead roots and leaves, and other insects, dead or alive. These crickets have highly adaptive legs to help them burrow beneath the soil to find their meals.
Most true crickets rub their wings together to make a high pitched sound during mating. Jerusalem crickets do not possess wings to make sounds, instead they use their impressive abdomen like a drum and beat it against the ground. The vibrations are similar to a drum beat. They also do not possess the ability to hear sounds like other crickets, so vibrations are their way of making their mating calls.
As scary as the name suggests and as ugly as they look, these insects are not poisonous and will only bite when attacked. They do possess strong mandibles so a bite from one of these would be painful but not deadly.
One of the things I was told about these "child of the earth" creatures was that they actually let out a cry like a baby when they were killed. I was assured that the sound they made when killed would haunt you for days if not months or years. I didn't hear any cries, but the smell that came from it when I killed it did smell like a diaper.
So that night in June, when I was visited by the mythical beast called "child of the earth" I was excited that I finally encountered one. I talked about it to friends for days and weeks. I posted pictures on my Facebook page and showed anyone I could the pictures I took from my phone. I talked the beast up because I had finally seen one of these elusive creatures. But deep down, I was really disappointed. It was ugly and the size made it seem out of place in the middle of a living room floor but it wasn't scary. It didn't have any mythical powers. It didn't cry and it didn't spit out venom. The only thing it did do was scare my girlfriend enough that we had to watch the rest of the movie with the lights on.