5 Things You Didn’t Know About Spider Crickets (and How to Get Rid of Them)
Also known as camel or cave crickets, these insects often take up residence in damp basements or garages. Here's what to know about them and how to get them out of your house.
If you've never seen a spider cricket before, consider yourself lucky. As its name suggests, this long-legged insect resembles a cricket with a bit of spider thrown in. They like to hang out in cool, dark, damp places like basements and crawlspaces, where they can be especially creepy to encounter because they're fairly large bugs that seem to be all legs and antennae. Not only are they often mistaken for huge spiders, but they also have the unpleasant habit of jumping directly toward you when you startle them. So if you have spotted them around your home, you have our sympathy. Here are our best tips for getting rid of them, plus information about why they might be hanging around and how you can discourage them from coming back.
1. They're Not Actually Spiders...or Crickets
Good news for anyone with arachnophobia—despite their name, these pests aren’t actually spiders. They’re part of the insect order Orthoptera, which means they’re related to grasshoppers, locusts, and other crickets (like the black crickets you may have seen around your house and garden). The “spider” part of their name comes from the way their long legs make them look, but they’ve only got six of them, not eight.
And though they’re not spiders, they’re not technically crickets, either. Spider crickets are closely related to true crickets but belong to a different family called Rhaphidophoridae, while true crickets belong to Gryllidae. They are strong jumpers, thanks to those long legs, but they don’t have wings and most species of spider cricket also lack inner ears, both of which true crickets have.
2. They've Got a Variety of Names
Spider cricket may be one of the most commonly used names for these creepy bugs, but it’s not the only one they go by. They’re also known as camel crickets because of their humped backs, and sometimes they are called cave crickets, thanks to their preference for living in dark, damp places.
3. They Can't Chirp
Another characteristic that separates spider crickets from true crickets is their chirping ability (or lack thereof). They can’t chirp at all, which, depending on your point of view, could be good or bad. They won’t keep you up at night by making noise the way regular crickets might, but on the other hand, you won’t know they’re inside your house unless you happen to see them.
4. Spider Crickets Don't Bite (Technically)
Do spider crickets bite? The short answer is no, they don’t. The long answer is a little more complicated. Their mouthparts are built for chewing, not biting, and they will gnaw on just about anything, including fabrics, wood, cardboard, plants, and even each other. It's possible that if one were to land on your bare skin, it might try to give you a test nibble. While that wouldn’t break the skin, it would still be painful.
5. They're More Common East of the Mississippi River
You can certainly still find spider crickets in states west of the Mississippi, but you’re more likely to encounter them in the east. Some species are native to the United States, but others are native to parts of Asia. According to a study in 2014 conducted by researchers from North Carolina State University, the greenhouse camel cricket from Asia was the most common species in the U.S., with 90% of respondents reporting sightings of it over other species of these insects. The researchers found that they were more common in and around homes east of the Mississippi, and estimated that there could be 700 million spider crickets of all species just in the eastern United States.
How to Get Rid of Spider Crickets
These pests like the cold and damp, so unlike other insect invaders, they usually tend to make their way inside when the weather is hot and dry, as opposed to cold. You’re probably most likely to see them indoors in the summer and fall because of this, but unfortunately, they can breed in your house if the conditions are right, so you could see them at any time of year. They're not picky about what they eat, so once inside, they'll have a convenient buffet to feed on, including fungi, wood, cardboard, fabrics, and pretty much anything else they can get their mouths on, including other spider crickets.
The best way to deal with spider crickets is to keep them out of your home in the first place. Basements and crawl spaces are popular hangouts for them, so be sure to seal and weather-strip openings at the lowest levels (like basement windows and ground-level doors). If they are still getting in, dehumidifiers like the Frigidaire High Efficiency 50-Pint Dehumidifier, $199.99, Walmart can help dissuade them from sticking around by making the air less damp. Cutting down on clutter and cardboard boxes will also help eliminate hiding spots and food sources.
Another line of defense is sticky traps that are designed for mice and other household pests like the Tomcat Super Hold Glue Traps, $3.64, Walmart, but a few loops of duct tape will also work in a similar way. Place these where walls and floors intersect in basements and other places you have encountered these creatures. They'll often accidentally stumble into them, but you can increase your odds of catching them by adding a few pieces of bait to the center of the tape. They love fungi, so a moldy piece of bread could work. When they go after the bait, they’ll get stuck and die. Once you’ve caught a few, the dead ones stuck to the trap will become bait for these little cannibals, too.
Shallow bowls of soapy water left where you've seen the crickets can also be effective traps. Especially if you’ve already made efforts to reduce the moisture in your home, the crickets will be attracted to the water. While trying to drink it, they’ll fall in the bowl and drown.
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If you don’t want to get close enough to squash them (we don’t blame you) and you'd rather not have to clean up traps loaded with cricket corpses, use a strong vacuum to dispatch them. Just make sure to empty your vacuum cleaner immediately afterward in case they survived the trip and try to make a reappearance.
Spider crickets may look terrifying, but luckily, they’re not too different from their true cricket cousins. You can keep most of them out with a few preventative measures, and catch any that slip through your defenses with simple traps. However, if the spider crickets in your home escalate to the level of an infestation, calling in professional help could be your best bet. We certainly don’t want to encounter this creepy insect any more than we have to.