Parktown Prawn: My worst nightmare

I, for one, have never heard of anything called a Parktown Prawn.  When you google about moving to South Africa, you get all kinds of results about crime – rape, murder, car jacking, home invasion etc.  There are lots of articles about corruption and politics.  I even googled about snakes and scorpions as a friend had written on her blog that she had almost trodden on a scorpion here.  What I didn’t know about were these Parktown Prawns.

Basically, they are a HUGE insect (a King cricket) that is found in Joburg during the rainy summer months.  They are freaking massive – check out this picture I found on Google

I’m not scared of insects, snakes, spiders etc but this thing makes the hairs on my arms stand on end by just looking at the picture.  I honestly shudder when I think about them

I can’t even remember the first time someone told me about them, but I know I had already lived here for about a month.  A month!  Why are people keeping this thing a secret?  I’ll tell you why.  Because no one would bloody move here otherwise!  Since then I have been googling and asking everyone I meet here about them.  Have they seen them?  Are they common?  Every single person looks at me like I am crazy and then replies yes, they have seen them, they have had them in their house.  ARGH!

People that live closer and closer to me have been telling me their Prawn stories, until someone that lives just two doors down said that their cat had caught one.  NOOOOO!  Now the final straw – my friend just sent me a photo of a dead Parktown Prawn that she saw OUTSIDE MY HOUSE.  I think I am going to faint/puke/run away screaming

Dead prawn outside my house. Photo via Namrata's iphone

Now, I’m a bit of a bad-ass when it comes to looking after myself.  I have prided myself on it for years, and it often frustrates Rob that I just do certain things for myself that apparently a man is meant to do for me.  Well I can promise you one thing Rob, you can sort out the Parktown Prawn when our paths cross.  I’m being a huge girl about this thing

Things that I have found out about them that make me feel queasy:

  • They can be about 5 inches in size…..that’s 12.7 cm’s!!
  • They can jump really far and really high which makes me feel weird and freaked
  • They squirt foul smelling black fecal matter for METRES if they feel threatened
  • They hiss at you whilst you are trying to kill them
  • If you try and squash them they simply won’t die.  Please read this blog post about another guys experience of coming face to face with this beast.  It is one of the funniest things I have read in a long time, but scares the shit out of me
  • If you manage to squash them, aforementioned disgusting smelling poo liquid is all over your house, shoe etc
  • If you flush them down the toilet they crawl back up.  Unscathed
  • They can come up the drains and through your sink
  • My cats may not be as scared as me and may bring them in the house, dead or alive.  Probably covered in the black goo that stinks
  • They eat cat food!!  Well, not as a primary staple of their diet, but they eat snails and plant matter, dead birds (WTF) and other insects.  I wonder if I will come home to find one chowing down on Midas’s leftovers.  That is probably the only thing that would prompt him to attack.  Nothing comes between Midas and his food, believe me
  • The aliens in the South African (and awesome) film District 9 were called prawns and it is believed that this is a reference to these buggers as they looked like them
  • The really annoying bird that wakes me up every day with it’s extreme noise actually eats them.  Please come back every day Hadeda Ibis.  All is forgiven

I feel so grossed out that I have even consulted my landlord to see if we have ever had them in the house.  He says no.  That means yes.


48 thoughts on “Parktown Prawn: My worst nightmare

  1. Yeah – can’t say I’m a fan of these ugly critters either… they do seem confined to Jozi though – I’ve never had a visit from any when living in Pretoria or Hartbeespoort. Just Jo’burg…
    Thankfully I’ve never witnessed the black goo…!

  2. Mmm yes! They are migrating up to Pretoria beware – we have them in Lonehill! I saw a HUGE one on Sunday night outside my kitchen door!! The damn thing nearly ran over my foot! I screamed so loudly the kids thought I was under attack! We tried out best to whack it to death with a broom but after several hits it just lumbered off into the night – I think their exoskeletons are made of armour-plate! Horrible, horrible horrible!!!!!

  3. You made me laugh. HARD. This morning my dear 🙂 I was similar with some insects I encountered in HK. They made me go “ieeeeeeee!!!!”

    • My British friends are FREAKING OUT right now! haha. It’s so funny that the South African’s have the same reaction as you. When you grow up with something you just get used to it I suppose. Like us and the bad weather in London!

  4. Martina, I am sorry you had to find out this way…but at least you have had an authentic Jozi experience.

    I had one in my lace up Doc Martin boots (10 holes!!) for about half an hour and thought my foot toe was twitching…until I had that horrible sinking (stinking) feeling and threw that boot off so quickly it was like I had flung a boomerang!

  5. Consider encountering African goggas part of the whole SA safari experience.
    These cute crickets are quite easy to catch; get a (large) glass and pop it over the beast, the slide a peice of paper underneath it to trap it inside, then release it outside. No need for unnecessary slaughter!

  6. OMG how gruesome but darling how your blog made me chuckle; Uncle would love to get one under his magnifying glass. When you do have a close encounter with these little blighters I want every sordid detail. x

  7. I hate to chime in her and also disappoint you, but we had one in our pool the day we moved into our house. I hadn’t done any research like you and it was even worse. Like the previous tenants were breeding shrimps in their pool or something, I had no idea what it was! Disgusting. I haven’t even thought about the cat bringing one inside the house – uggggh! But you’re quite right, makes you view the Hadedas in a whole different light, doesn’t it? BTW, perhaps I’m selfish, but can’t wait for you to have your real life encounter so that i get to read your blog post about it:-)

  8. Oh No!! I’ll be moving to Jo’burg in a couple of weeks and no one told me about these things! You’re right, it seems to be a secret. For months, I have been researching about living in Jo’burg and I have also pestered my husband to ask his Jo’burg colleagues if there are any bugs etc. to worry about i.e. cockroaches, snakes, scorpions, big hairy spiders. I even asked the relocation consultant the same. All answered the same! ‘No, nothing.’ They lied!! THEY LIED!!!

  9. Martina, I know you’re going to be freaked out at this: I was in charge of cleaning a friend’s pool while they were travelling, and when I open the cover to look at the weir basket, among all the leaves stuck in there, what do I see floating on top? Yep, you guessed it. A very dead Parktown Prawn. What to do (and this will be the freaky part for you)? The hole was too small to reach in with a net, and I couldn’t get past the thing to just pull out the entire basket, it was so huge. So I did what I always do when wildlife infringes into our space, and the hubby is too scared to do anything about it (like that rat snake laid out in front of our door, or the squirrel fallen into the chimney) – I reached in, grabbed it by its leg, and pulled it out, flinging it far into the woods. Creepy I know, but it was the most expedient course of action.

    You know what grossed me out even more? Our cat brought a caterpillar type thing, half dead, but alas not all dead, to our doorstep. I think it might have been the embryo form of that prawn, it was so fat and green and ugly. Now THAT really freaked me out!

  10. Got here through Sine’s blog. I’m a South African who lived in Joburg for 3 years before doing expat stints in a variety of other countries for a few years, and returned back to SA a year ago.

    I still remember my first encounter / ordeal with one of these horrific things during our 3 year stay – it was fit for a sit-com! However, the memory still chills me to the bone and, prior to our return, just the thought of encountering them again would result in panic. As they say, Africa’s not for sissies…clearly I am one!

    Something that reminds me very much of Parktown Prawns, and which I’ve come across often in the Klaserie (Hoedspruit / Kruger Park) area are Red Romans… Equally freaky and panic-inducing. Something to check out with the locals, if you’re ever in that area.

  11. Hi Martina,

    My name is Pipa, I am a Portuguese expat living in JHB for 1 month an a half. I have seen the Parktown Prawn when I went to view a house to let with my husband and daughter. The prawn was in the pool and I asked the real estate agent what that was. She said it was a garden keeper, it eats the snails and other insects. We ended up renting the house and we are moving in 2 weeks time. I just hope I don’t find one inside the house since they are attracted to light!

    • Hi Pipa, welcome to Joburg! I can’t believe you saw a prawn as soon as you arrived! It took me months to finally see one in real life. I think it is just something that we have to get used to…hopefully not too frequently though! Good luck settling into your new home 🙂

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