Nothing will make kids scream louder than finding a camel cricket in the basement. And really, who can blame them for freaking out when they see one? There’s something inherently icky about a giant bug that looks like its mother was a spider and its father was a cricket.
Some people call them spider crickets, sprickets, or camel crickets, but I just call them gross.
Bend over to squash a camel cricket and it’ll jump high enough to poke your eye out. Try to hit it with a rolled up newspaper and it will hop away faster than a vampire on “True Blood.”
The best way to get rid of a camel cricket is to drop a phone book on it. Just like the cartoon character Wile E. Coyote, the camel cricket won’t see the anvil until it’s too late. But that can be messy, especially on carpet.
So, I called Patricia Zungoli, professor of entomology at Clemson University, to find out if there’s a better way to get rid of them:
Me: Why don’t people like camel crickets?
Professor Z: I don’t have a clue. I think they’re kind of cool. They’re interesting looking and they don’t hurt anybody. You find camel crickets in damp basements and garages, or if you have a dank and dark spot. Maybe it’s that people don’t like things moving in dank and dark spots.
Me: Why do they leap at my eyeballs when I try to kill them?
Professor Z: They’re not leaping at your eyeballs. They’re leaping as far away from your eyeballs as they can get.
Me: Have you ever lived in a house with camel crickets? What did you do with them?
Professor Z: I used to live in a place where they lived in the garage and we let them stay.
Me: I drop phone books on them, but that’s messy. Is there a better way to get rid of them?
Professor Z: You can discourage them a lot by reducing moisture level. If you can reduce the humidity and you no longer have a wet basement, you’re going to have better luck in not having these populations. In a finished basement, if you have a few camel crickets, it’s because they wandered in.
I’m in South Carolina and basements aren’t common in the South, but I go in crawl spaces doing termite work and they have lots of camel crickets. They’re an indication that you need to dry things out a little bit.
Me: A friend told me that in Japan, people try to get house centipedes because the centipedes eat other bugs. Can I get rid of camel crickets by getting a house centipede and re-enacting “Alien vs. Predator” in my basement?
Professor Z: If you have a centipede that’s large enough to take down one of these crickets, it would be scarier than the crickets. There are tropical species of centipedes that can get their mouth parts onto human skin — but you couldn’t import them into the U.S. anyway.
Camel crickets are really just a nuisance pest. The only damage they can do — and they’d have to be in large numbers — is feed on fabrics and houseplants.
In an outdoor environment, they’re part of the ecosystem. They’re a source of food for birds and small mammals. You can kill them easily. Any insecticide will do it.
Or if you’re not into insecticide, you can capture them easily with an insect net. If you throw a towel on them, you can scoop them up. It’s like catching a cockroach — if you don’t want it in your house and you don’t want to use insecticide.
Me: (rendered speechless thinking “What kind of people catch cockroaches?”)
Professor Z: If you have camel or cave crickets, it’s an indication of high humidity and moisture, and when you alleviate that, it will discourage them. It may take a while to elimate them, but they’ll move to seek moisture.
How do you deal with camel crickets?