Top 10 Creepy Critters

October 16, 2009, 10:30 am

Some fly while others slither, but all of these creepy critters are certain to raise the hair on the back of your neck. Most are no threat to humans, however just the sight is enough to keep you awake at night! If you’re looking for a scare this Halloween, then take a look at what we think are this Halloween’s Top 10 Creepy Critters.
 
1. Star-nosed mole
If you ever wanted find these aptly-named critter, then you would need to head to eastern Canada or the northeastern United States. You might be able to catch a glimpse in Great Smoky Mountains National Park or Acadia National Park. The star-nosed mole makes its home in wet lowland areas and feasts on worms and mollusks. Not known for being the most attractive animal, the mole has thick dark water-repellent skin that comes in handy for diving into ponds and streams in search of food, which it consumes with incredible speed (the moles are reputed to be the fastest eater amongst mammals). Adult moles are about 8 inches in length, weigh close to 3 ounces and have 44 teeth.  However it is neither its waterproof skin nor its small size that makes this critter creepy. At the end of its nose are 22 pink, fleshy tentacles!
 
2. Bats
Representing more than 1,000 species in the Chiroptera order, bats comprise more than 20 percent of all mammals. Of these there are three species of vampire bats. They seek out unsuspecting mammals and attack them—often unbeknownst to the victim, which doesn’t feel the bites because of the small size of the bat’s teeth. Humans have also been known to fall prey to vampire bats, and although you won’t have to worry about actually becoming a vampire if you’re bitten, bats have been known to carry rabies. While in the United States, you don’t have to fear vampire bats, as they are usually found in Mexico and South America. Most bats eat insects and fruits. You can find bats in Carlsbad Caverns National Park as well as Pinnacles National Monument. Although most bats are not known for feasting on blood, their nocturnal ways make them creepy nonetheless.
 
3. Centipedes
There are approximately 8,000 species of centipedes, and they can be found in a wide range of environments ranging from rainforests to deserts. Centipedes are usually shades of red and brown and have segmented bodies. These predators have round or flat heads with antennae they use to find their prey. These fast-moving critters typically feed on insects. However centipedes occasionally bite humans, who report them to be very painful. The largest centipede recorded was 12 inches long, and house centipedes grow to be about an inch and a half in length. Despite their useful habit of eating unwanted household bugs such as flies and roaches, their frightful appearance often makes them unwelcome guests. If you’re interested in seeing these creepy critters, just not inside your house, they can be found at many parks including Shenandoah National Park, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Big Bend National Park and Mojave National Preserve. Please be advised that you should never handle centipedes, as certain species are poisonous.
 
4. Rattlesnakes
This is one creepy critter that should not be underestimated. Rattlesnakes are known for their ability to attack from distances up to two-thirds their body length and are faster than the human eye can see. These poisonous creatures’ diets usually include mice, birds and other small animals. However, if you scare this creature, you can be certain that you’re in for a bite. The rattlesnake’s venom can kill its prey, depending on its size, in as little as 20 seconds. If you’re daring enough to search for rattlesnakes, take a trip to Bryce Canyon National Park, Great Basin National Park or Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. But make sure you don’t startle or provoke the rattlesnake.
 
5. Cave crickets
You would be correct in assuming that cave crickets do, in fact, live in caves; however, they inhabit all sorts of dark and damp places including decaying logs, stones, boards and even dark basements. You’re likely to spot some in Mammoth Cave National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Cave crickets have long legs and antennae with seemingly hunchbacked bodies. In fact, while these brown insects are about 2 inches in length their legs are twice as long their bodies. Perhaps this is an adaptation that enables them to jump long distances to escape prey when they feel threatened. Because of their poor eyesight, cave crickets usually jump at their supposed attacker to scare it off. Despite their appearance, cave crickets pose no threat to humans. Their diet consists of small insects, microbes and, every once in a while, each other. They have even been known to feed off their own extremities in an attempt to survive when other food sources are hard to come by. They literally eat themselves alive!
 
6. Pseudoscorpions
Just because they’re “fake” scorpions doesn’t mean their appearance is any less terrifying. These creatures can be found worldwide, but if you’re just itching to see some, take a look at the cave walls of Great Basin National Park. They have flat, pear-shaped bodies and resemble scorpions, save the absence of a tail. The male Pseudoscorpions are darker and more common that the female. Pseudoscorpions have eight legs and two long pincers contributing to their resemblance of an actual scorpion. They eat larva, mites and ants. Growing no more than half an inch, these tiny arachnids often go unseen. Perhaps it’s better that way.
 
7. Cicadas
They may hum a nice tune, but that is as far as cicada appeal goes. These insects have five widely-spaced eyes and transparent wings. Yes, five eyes! At the top of their heads in between the larger two eyes are three smaller ones. To add to their  intimidating look, cicadas have two short antennae in between or in front of their eyes (the two primary ones). Male cicadas are responsible for producing the cicadas’ sound by vibrating internal membranes. These songs are said to be sounds of irritation or love and vary from species to species. Listen out for them on your next trip to Grand Canyon National Park.
 
8. Tarantula hawks (wasps)
If you thought tarantulas were scary, wait until you read about the tarantula hawk. Or if you are in the area, you may want to visit Bandelier National Monument to try to spot them in action. The tarantula hawk is a member of the spider wasp family and is nearly the size of a hummingbird. The sting of the large flying insect is said to be one of the most painful (non-lethal) bites in the animal kingdom. The female tarantula hawk goes off in search of a tarantula and fights it with its hooked claws. While not one to back down from a fight, the tarantula is still no match for the paralyzing sting of the tarantula hawk. Paralyzed, the tarantula is carried into a burrow, where the predator lays her eggs inside of the live spider and covers the burrow. When the larvae are hatched, their first meal will be that same tarantula. Trick or treat!
 
9. Jumping Spiders
As if having four eyes and eight legs wasn’t scary enough, these spiders can jump 20 to 80 times the length of their bodies! Unlike most spiders, the jumping spider does not need a web to capture its prey. It simply jumps on its prey, and before its victim has a chance to escape, the spider injects its venom. If you happen to be visiting Point Reyes National Seashore, you just might see these red-backed jumping spiders in action. Keep in mind these spiders don’t scare off easily. If you attempt to shoo one away, there is a good chance that it just might jump on you, so watch out.
 
10. Cockroaches
With 400 species, cockroaches are among the most hated creepy critters around. Maybe its because they can survive the harshest of conditions. Some are able to slow their heart rates if there is limited oxygen while others can emerge unscathed after spending a half-hour submerged in water. Cockroaches can even go for long periods of time without eating. Seemingly designed to be reviled, cockroaches have wide, flat bodies, tiny heads and big eyes. Some crawl around hissing, while others even chirp!. There’s no need to search for these creepy crawlies because they’re everywhere, and maybe one day they will be that last creatures on earth.