Some find the sound of chirping crickets, which is actually a mating call, romantic or nostalgic, or they may interpret it as a sign from Mother Nature that fall is coming.
Chirps can be affected by the cricket’s age, hunger and mating drive/competition from nearby males. Crickets are also known to chirp in staccato bursts while others emit a more continuous and equally irritating shrill sound. They typically do not chirp when the temperature is below 55 degrees or over 100. Handy information, but when the sound is regularly coming from somewhere in the dark recesses of your home it can be concerning if not outright irritating.
What we generally find in our homes are camel crickets, which are also known as the camelback or spider cricket due to their slightly humpbacked appearance and long legs, which give them spider-like jumping ability. They do not have wings as adults but when startled will jump at you as a means of defense.
Crickets get quiet in response to threats of approaching predators. They do not bite and are sensitive to floor vibration and noises. Dogs, cats and birds have been known to eat them, so if you’ve got insect-eating pets you may not want to use insecticides or store-bought chemical traps.
Lizards and spiders are natural cricket predators but the idea of letting reptiles roam free in one’s basement in search of crickets may create another problem. Since most predators are active during daylight, crickets largely chirp at night.
“We’ve had milder winters and significant rain,” said Stewart Muir, a certified entomologist at JP McHale in Southampton Pest Management in Southampton. “Those circumstances tend to lead to pest population increases.”
Muir said crickets are “occasional invaders,” meaning they do not stay permanently in a building but are seeking refuge from the colder temperatures. When indoors crickets seek cool, dark, damp places like basements and crawl spaces, their presence usually indicates a high moisture or humidity level. Crickets can nest in compact crevices, so they often accumulate in dark cluttered areas like a garage or an attic. Under cardboard boxes is a favorite hiding place. To minimize cricket invasion look for worn door sweeps, torn screens and cracks in window caulking or foundations. Sealing crevices around a structure with caulk or weather stripping can help prevent pests from entering. Bait treatments can target pests where they live and breed while minimizing exposure to people and pets.
When outside, crickets primarily inhabit areas of tall grass, shrubs, or trees. Large piles of bricks or stones, wood, or grassy flower beds are also susceptible to a cricket infestation. Overgrown landscaping like bushes or shrubs in close contact with a structure can create great cricket-hiding spaces. A pest-control professional can inspect a property and identify problem areas such as gaps that need to be sealed. It is typically late summer and fall when adult crickets become especially common around buildings. An adult female can lay up to about 100 eggs per day and about 3,000 eggs in a lifetime. They are generally laid in plant stems. Indoors, crickets often lay eggs in damp and humid areas. Inside walls and cabinets near sinks are favorite indoor egg-laying locations.
Similarly, water bugs are drawn to moisture and often enter a home through pipes, drains, garbage disposals and/or laundry lines, as well as damp air ducts. Like crickets, they also crawl under doors and can be transported via packages. The equally repulsive silverfish seeks similar environments.
Ventilate crawl spaces and basements and fix leaking pipes or air-conditioning units. Watch the garage door. By entering a garage, these bugs often then gain access to the rest of the house. A home dehumidifier can help make the environment less hospitable by drying the air.
As with most conditions, pest prevention is generally cheaper than removal. Spraying pesticides or placing traps may temporarily help but likely will not permanently solve the problem. So-called natural or organic solutions are also available. Read the labels before application.
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a white powder made from algae skeletons. When insects come in contact with it they become dehydrated and eventually die. Found in home improvement or garden stores, DE is safe to use around people and pets and can be sprinkled indoors and outdoors and in crevices. Make sure to get food-grade DE, and only use it in dry spots — once wet, DE is no longer effective.
Crickets tend to feast on young plants or flowers. Consider planting nitrogen-fixing plants, which draw nitrogen gas from the air and store it in their roots. These include peas, beans and other legumes. Planting garlic, clover, cilantro, sweet potatoes and sweet peas can also irritate crickets and drive them away.
For a homemade natural cricket repellent, mix fresh hot chili peppers and/or hot chili powder with two cups of water and a few drops of dish soap. While wearing protective gloves, glasses and mask, spray toward (but not directly on) plant leaves and soil. The burn will repel the bugs. Adding some crushed garlic cloves can make the spray more potent.
How to get rid of a cricket you can’t locate? A simple cricket trap can be made by adding a few spoons of molasses, beer, cereal or soda in a shallow bowl. Fill it about halfway with water and place it in the problem area. The sweet odor will attract crickets that enter the bowl and drown.
For the simplest of homemade cricket traps, place a few loops of duct tape near basement walls and floors and other places. Crickets can arbitrarily wander onto them, but by adding a few pieces of bait, such as a bit of moldy bread, you may increase your odds. Once the bug approaches the bait it’ll get stuck to the adhesive.
Think crickets are only active during the fall? Because they overwinter as nymphs, come spring crickets quickly develop with the arrival of milder weather. Soon after this the singing/mating ritual resumes and runs through late June or early July. Once they finish laying eggs they die.
One fine body…