The sound of cricket chirping can be irritating, especially when you're trying to sleep, but you can't blame camel crickets (Ceuthophilus spp.) for the noise. They don't chirp. They do eat fabrics, though, and they are somewhat scary, so you don't want them in your house.
About Camel Crickets
A camel cricket isn't like other crickets. The brownish insect doesn't have sound-producing appendages. It can't hear, and it doesn't have wings, so it can't fly. It has several names, each of which refers to one of its idiosyncrasies:
- "Camel cricket or camelback cricket" refers to the large hump on the insect's back that makes it look like a dromedary. This name also refers to the fact that the insects are commonly found in arid locations.
- "Cave cricket" refers to the insect's propensity for living in caves scooped out of the earth. Stones, rotting logs and piles of dead leaves can also function as caves, and so can your baseboards and basement walls.
- "Spider cricket" or "spricket" refers to the insect's six long legs, which give it a spider-like appearance. The strong legs make the cricket a prolific jumper and give it the ability to escape predators and humans who try to catch it.
Camel crickets or sprickets aren't dangerous, and they look more ferocious than they actually are. They have no venom, and they don't carry disease. They don't bite or sting, although a spricket may mistake your arm for food and start gnawing on it. The resultant sensation has been described as more irritating than painful.
A Houseful of Camel Crickets Is a Nuisance
Camel crickets are problematic because they like to feed on fabrics. Since they tend to congregate in large numbers, that's bad news for your curtains, carpets and the clothes in your closet. They also eat fungus (which might actually be a good thing), drywall paper, wallpaper and wallpaper glue, cardboard, carpet and wood. They even feast on each other.
Sprickets don't mate by sound but by smell, and once they have found suitable shelter, they breed quickly. If you have a nest in the basement, there's a good chance a straggler will find its way into your living room or bedroom. Because the insects often jump directly toward anything that startles them, the encounter may be an unpleasant one, especially if you mistake it for a spider.
Large-Scale Control Is a Job for Pros
If you have a large infestation, evidenced by an unusual number of sightings of the insects in your house, you should get professional help. A licensed pest control expert can help you devise a program for attacking the problem inside and outside your house. Such a program may involve potentially harmful pesticides that are best handled by a licensed pro.
Control Camel Crickets by Controlling Moisture and Access
If you have a spricket infestation in your basement, it's because it's the dampest place in your house. Camel crickets seek out moisture, and they feed on the fungi that grow in moist conditions. Without moisture, camel crickets will die, or they'll go somewhere else. Try running a dehumidifier to control humidity and reduce condensation.
If the sprickets would only stay outside, all would be fine because they pose no threat and aren't annoying like their chirping cousins. You can keep the insects outside by sealing baseboards, foundation cracks and any other small openings in your house with caulk or some other filling material, such as wood filler or concrete patch. This is the first thing you should do to prevent any type of insect infestation.
Some gaps, such as those under doors, may be too large to seal, or sealing may be impractical. Spread diatomaceous earth inside the house near these gaps. Diatomaceous earth is a finely abrasive powder that lacerates exoskeletons and dehydrates and kills the insects. Diatomaceous earth is safe for humans and is available at garden supply centers.
Use Tape to Catch Camel Crickets
You can buy sticky traps designed for mouse control to catch camel crickets, but there's an easier way. Just fold several 4-inch pieces of duct tape back on themselves to make sticky loops, and then place these on the ground in areas where you've spotted the insects. You can also use packing tape or carpet tape, which are stickier.
You'll need some type of bait to attract the critters to your traps, and you may have to experiment to find one that works. Try moldy bread or cheese to appeal to the insects' love for fungi. Remember that the crickets are cannibals. If you catch one, it will be bait for others.
Other Control Strategies
Cats like to hunt crickets, so one control strategy would be to go to the local animal shelter and give a home to one that appeals to you. Mice also eat crickets, so you could introduce mice. If you do that, though, you'll need the cat to control the mice. Neither strategy is particularly realistic. Here are some that have a better chance of getting results:
- Deploy bowls of soapy water. This will work best if you've made efforts to reduce moisture. The insects will drink the water and fall in. The soap will dissolve the waxy coating on their bodies to ensure they sink and drown.
- Buy electronic rat traps. Use the type that are moisture sensitive, not heat sensitive. Cricket bodies don't generate much heat. The traps kill any insects that wander inside with a satisfying crackle.
- Vacuum up the crickets you can see. If you come across a large colony in the basement or elsewhere, use a vacuum cleaner to suck them up. Empty the bag outside as soon as you're done.
Get Rid of Camel Crickets With Bait
Boric acid is a favorite bait ingredient for insect control. When the insects unwittingly consume it, they dehydrate from the inside and die in two or three days. Boric acid is mildly toxic to humans and pets, so bait stations have to be placed out of the reach of children and animals.
When you bait ants or termites with boric acid, you usually want to keep the concentration low. That way, the workers that consume the bait have time to feed it to the colony before they die. Crickets don't live in colonies and don't eat communally, so you want a high concentration to make them die as quickly as possible.
Camel Cricket Bait Recipe
Here's a recipe with a proven track record. You will need:
- 8 ounces boric acid
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1 cup sugar
- Small onion
- 1/4 cup bacon drippings
- Mix 8 ounces of boric acid granules (available at a drug store) with 1/2 cup of flour and 1 cup of sugar.
- Chop up a small onion and add it to the mixture.
- Pour in 1/4 cup of bacon drippings.
- Add enough water to make the mixture doughy, and then knead it and form it into balls.
Set the balls on aluminum foil or saucers and put them in kid-inaccessible places where you have seen crickets. The mixture tends to dry out, so keep it in the refrigerator and replace dried-out balls with fresh ones every week or so until the crickets are gone.