Certain crickets invade homes and become a pest by their presence. Homeowners complain of their monotonous chirping, which can be annoying especially at night when trying to get some sleep. An unmistakable chirp, produced when the cricket rubs a hardened area on the upper side of its wing against a thickened vein near the base of the forewing.
Indoors, some crickets can feed on a wide variety of fabrics, foods and paper products. Cotton, linen, wool, rayon, nylon, silk and furs are susceptible, along with soiled fabrics, sizing from wallpaper, glue from bookbinding’s, fruit, vegetables, meat and even other crickets.
The word “cricket” comes from a French word, criquer, and meaning ‘little creeker.’ The Dutch call the insect a krekel, while in China it is known as kwo kwo. Crickets get their name from the high-pitched sound or “chirp” produced when the male rubs his front wings together to attract a female. Listening to their song can identify different kinds of crickets. The cricket’s tympanic organs can vibrate with up to 20,000 cycles per second, well beyond the sensitivity of human ears. The temperature can be determined by counting the number of times a cricket chirps in 15 seconds and adding 40 to the number.
House Crickets normally live outdoors especially in garbage dumps, preferring warm weather, but will move indoors when it gets colder in late summer. Over wintering occurs outdoors in the egg stage. Each female can lay an average of 728 eggs with the immature (nymphs) resembling the adults except being wingless. Nymphs molt seven to eight times and reach adulthood in about 60 days. Also, these crickets can live indoors, completing their life cycle with eggs laid in cracks, crevices and other dark areas such as behind baseboards.
Adults are attracted to lights, and become active at night (hide during the day) to crawl, jump or fly sometimes in countless numbers up the sides of houses, entering openings of even second and third story windows and roof skylights. The continued, monotonous “chirp” is loud and distracting, resulting in lost sleep. They will feed on silk, woolens, nylon, rayon and wood. They are found in fields, pastures, lawns, and in woods.
Nymphs resemble adults except are smaller and wingless, molt eight to nine times and reach adulthood in about 90 days. They are serious agricultural pests feeding on many crop plants. They become household pests in late summer and early fall when they move out of fields and into buildings. They can damage furniture, rugs and clothing and the “chirping” of adult males can be irritating. They are attracted to lights, can fly and are found around dumpsters. Large swarms may invade well-lighted areas covering streets and the sides of buildings black with crickets. They feed on nylon, wood, plastic fabrics, thin rubber goods and leather. Outbreaks occur when rainfall follows a period of drought.
Adults, sometimes called cave or cellar crickets, are a little over 3/4 inch long, light tan to dark brown (darker bands on some segments), wingless, with head bent downward, back arched (humpbacked appearance), large hind legs and long antennae.
Camel Crickets are active at night in cool, damp, dark areas and damp basements or crawlspaces. They are not attracted to lights nor produce songs. Over wintering occurs as nymphs or adults in protected places. They may be found living in large numbers. Some textiles may be damaged. Some hide under hay bales, feeding on other insects seeking shelter there. Most are found in hollow trees, under logs and stones and in other dark, moist places. They can live and reproduce indoors.
How To Prevent Cricket Problems
Sanitation is the most important means of eliminating nuisance crickets. Keep all areas in and around buildings free of moisture, dense vegetation and weeds (1 foot band next to foundation). Mow lawns, cut weeds, and clean up garbage collection areas. Remove harborage sites such as piles of bricks, stones, rotting wood and other debris. Caulk and seal all cracks and crevices, near the ground level at basement windows and doorways.
Make sure that all windows and doors are tight fitting with proper screening in place. Exclusion is an important factor as well as light discipline. Avoid bright mercury vapor lights in entryways and along structure perimeters since crickets will be attracted from far distances. Convert to sodium vapor yellow lights (less attractive to insects) instead of white, neon or mercury vapor lights.
Never store firewood next to the house foundation. Raise garbage cans off the ground if practical. Trash and dumpsters should be placed as far from the building as possible. Crickets are attracted to food in these areas. Crickets may be troublesome at trash dumps, grassy roadsides, pasture fields and wooded areas (breeding sites) before entering structures. Crickets can be collected by vacuum cleaner or broom and dustpan and discarded, if a few are present.
Crickets have been known to damage plant seedlings, seeds of grain crops and alfalfa, strawberries, tomatoes, and other horticultural crops. In addition, crickets can damage stored tubers or fruits. In hay meadows, crickets often chew through baler twine. On the positive side, crickets often eat large numbers of other insects, some of which are agricultural pests.
In homes, crickets sometimes chew on clothing, draperies, or furniture (upholstery). They are particularly fond of fabrics containing organic materials such as cotton, silk, or wool, but they may damage synthetic fibers (nylon, rayon, etc.). This is more likely to occur if food has been spilled on them.