Little Big Creatures

Interested in learning more about native & non-native species in Camden County? Come check out our newest interactive learning display for Environmental Affairs at the Parks Building (1301 Park Blvd, Cherry Hill, NJ) to teach young & old residents about the little creatures that wander our local ecosystem. 


Mexican Red Knee Tarantula 

Brachypelma smithi

Easy to spot with its striking red-orange leg joints, the Mexican Red Knee Tarantula originates from the deserts of Mexico and plays a big role in its native ecosystem by controlling insect populations. It preys on frogs, lizards, and mice by delivering a venomous bite. No need to fear for your own safety though, because while a Mexican Red Knee Tarantula’s venom is fatal to its small prey, it’s only the equivalent of a bee sting to humans.

New Jersey’s largest spider is the Carolina Wolf Spider (Hogna carolinensis), known for its impressive size and hunting prowess, roaming our forests and grasslands. They like to hunt alone and typically don’t spin webs. Despite their fearsome appearance, both spiders are generally docile.


Dubia Cockroach

Blaptica dubia

Unlike the pests we often associate with cockroaches, the Dubia Cockroach is clean, slow-moving, and non-invasive. Many people keep them as pets, or raise them to feed their other pets, like our friends in the cases (yikes, watch out!). The Dubia Cockroach is native to Central and South America. 

New Jersey is home to the American Cockroach (Periplaneta americana), one of the largest and most common pest cockroaches in the state. American Cockroaches are known for invading homes and being fast movers.


Pacman Frog

Ceratophrys ornata

The Pacman Frog (Ceratophrys ornata), native to South America, is named for its large, round body and voracious appetite, reminiscent of the video game character. Known for its striking colors and patterns, this frog spends much of its time burrowed in leaf litter, waiting to ambush prey.

In contrast, New Jersey is home to the Green Frog (Rana clamitans melanota), which can be found in ponds and wetlands throughout the state. Both species offer a fascinating look at the diverse adaptations of frogs, from the ambush strategies of the Pacman Frog to the aquatic lifestyle of the Green Frog.


Asian Forest Scorpion

Heterometrus spinifer

The Asian Forest Scorpion, is a striking arachnid known for its large pinchers and glossy black exoskeleton. Although intimidating in appearance, this scorpion is generally shy and prefers to avoid confrontation. They love to burrow deep in the woods to hide out during the day and hunt at night, preying on crickets, spiders and other insects. They are native to the tropical forests of Southeast Asia.

New Jersey is home to the tiny but fascinating Pseudoscorpion (order Pseudoscorpiones), which can be found in leaf litter and under tree bark. Unlike true scorpions, pseudoscorpions lack a stinger and are harmless to humans. Both species highlight the incredible diversity within the arachnid world and play a crucial role in controlling insect populations.


Bahaman Anole

Anolis sagrei

This small, agile and adaptable lizard is the Bahaman Anole, also known as the Brown Anole. It can be recognized by its brown coloration and the bright orange dewlap it displays during territorial and mating behaviors. It is native to the Bahamas and Cuba, but has spread to other parts of the southeastern United States by laying eggs in the soil of plants being imported and exported.

New Jersey is home to the native Five-lined Skink (Plestiodon fasciatus), a colorful and energetic lizard that inhabits woodlands and rocky areas where there are plenty of places to hide. It loves to eat insects and spiders, and is known for having bright blue tails when they are juveniles. Both species offer fascinating insights into reptilian adaptations and behaviors, enriching our understanding of herpetology and the diversity of lizards in different ecosystems.


Green Anole

Anolis carolinensis

This shy, tree-dwelling lizard is an excellent climber, and uses its claw-tipped toes with adhesive toe pads to climb high into the forest canopy. The Green Anole is primarily bright green with a pale belly and long tail, legs and toes. The males are slightly larger than the females, with a pink throat flap, or dewlap, that expands when displaying. This lizard is native to the Southeastern United States. 

New Jersey is home to the native Northern Fence Lizard (Sceloporus undulatus hyacinthinus) a spiny lizard with rough scales on its back, found along forest edges, rock piles, and rotting stumps. Like most other lizards they go through a period of hibernation during the winter. The length of time and when they emerge varies depending on climate.


Florida Ivory Millipede

Chicobolus spinigerus

Here comes the Florida Ivory Millipede, with its striking black and white striped exoskeleton. A gentle giant among millipedes, they are known for slow, graceful movements and playing an important role in decomposing organic matter, contributing to soil health. Native to the southeastern United States, they can live for as long as ten years.

New Jersey is home to the more common Narceus Millipede (Narceus americanus), which also plays a crucial role in breaking down decaying plant material and enriching the soil. Both species demonstrate the vital ecological functions of millipedes in nutrient cycling and soil formation.



Scolopendra viridis

Look sharp! There goes the Scolopendra Centipede, an agile predator with a bold green hue known for its impressive size and speed, this centipede uses its venomous forcipules to subdue prey, playing a key role in controlling insect populations. They are native to Central and South America.

Here in New Jersey you can find the Eastern Red Centipede (Lithobius forficatus), which can be found under rocks and logs in moist environments, and also venomous! They like to capture and eat small insects, earthworms and snails. Both species highlight the diverse and often misunderstood world of centipedes, emphasizing their importance in maintaining ecological balance by preying on other invertebrates.


Armored Darling Beetle 

Eleodes armata

The Armored Darkling Beetle plays a crucial role in the ecosystem by breaking down decomposing plant material. They are found under rocks and logs during the day, they eat decaying plant matter. Did you know these beetles do not need to drink and can produce water metabolically? When disturbed, they will assume a defensive posture in which they stand on their head and release chemicals from a scent gland in the rear that produces noxious odors. Pee yew!

Here in New Jersey you can find the Eastern Hercules Beetle (Dynastes tityus), one of the largest and strongest beetles in the state, isn’t he handsome?! The horns are used for male to male contests for the best breeding sites, just like deer and elk use their antlers. The female Hercules beetles do not have horns. These beetles are harmless to people, they love to eat rotting wood and leaves which also aids in enriching soil. Both species are vital for nutrient cycling and soil health, demonstrating the importance of beetles in the ecosystem.


Blue Death Feigning Beetle

Asbolus verrucosus

The Blue Death Feigning Beetle is named for its unique ability to feign death. When threatened this beetle rolls over on its back and plays dead! Their predators, such as spiders, prefer live prey so they move on. Native to the deserts of the southwestern United States, the striking blue color helps it withstand harsh desert conditions. This beetle is an excellent example of adaptation and survival in extreme environments. 

New Jersey’s native beetles, like the Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata), display their own unique adaptations, such as bright coloration and fast running speed to evade predators. They are predators and eat a wide variety of arthropods, including other beetle species, insect larvae, ants, crickets, grasshoppers, and spiders.


Ghost Mantis

Phyllocrania paradoxa

Can you find the Ghost Mantis? This fascinating insect uses its incredible camouflage to blend into its surroundings, ambushing unsuspecting prey, such as small insects like moths, beetles, and flies. They wait in ambush for their prey to come close enough to be snatched up by their well-developed raptorial forelegs. They are also known to eat smaller mantis species! This mantis is native to the forests of Madagascar and Africa. 

New Jersey is home to the native Carolina Mantis (Stagmomantis carolina), which is also a master of disguise, blending into local foliage to capture insects. Both species highlight the remarkable adaptations of mantises, demonstrating the intricate balance of predator and prey within their respective ecosystems.