Sprickets (Spider Crickets)
Why Do They Gather in My House?
It's been a while since I last did a post about sprickets, so I thought it was time for another, especially because I get so many questions about "spider crickets," also commonly called camel crickets.
These insects are the creepy wee beasties of some people's nightmares. They're actually crickets but with a hunched back. They dwell in dark places and basements, and while it's bad enough that they look like spiders these lookalikes take full advantage of the similarity to hop like a demented spring when startled, scaring the bejeebus out of basement goers.
Don't worry, sprickets are quite harmless, much like the grasshoppers you see in yards and fields. They don't have fangs, they aren't venomous, and they can't bite, but they are omnivores, eating just about anything in sight. This leads us to the question of the blog post,
Why do sprickets gather in my house?
The simple answer is that they are there for food, shelter, and to find others to mate with in a protected location. Basically, your house is party central for these springy crickets.
FOOD: Sprickets are quite ravenous crickets, eating anything from fabric and cloth to fungus, plant matter, and other insects. Their mandibles (mouth parts) are quite strong (though they don't bite) and good for eating a variety of foods. This is why they are in your basement. Most basements are damp or wet, and have a wide variety of insects, fungus, and other tasty treats that draw the sprickets. One way you can get rid of them is to light up the area, dry it out, and remove possible food sources (such as insects, fungus, cloth, or other materials...put them in Tupperware).
SHELTER: There are many different species of spricket (ranging from those that live in deserts to those found in damp basements). Many are even invasive species from other countries. The ones found here in the Eastern US tend to be damp dwelling species that like to come out at night and prefer cool damp places so they don't dry out. This is in part why they are in your basement or house too. Again, if you want to deter them remove the dampness, seal up your foundation and cracks, and remove leaf litter from around your house.
MATES: The last reason sprickets congregate in homes is that unlike other crickets they do not stridulate (str-id-u-late) or make sound using their back legs and/or wings. They rely on chemical cues to find each other and to communicate. Camel crickets rely on smell to distinguish males from females, and to find receptive breeding mates. These chemical cues also help camel crickets find groups of their kind, where presumably there is food and a safe shelter. After all, there is safety in numbers and you're less likely to be eaten if you're in a group of scary hoppy spider-looking friends.
There's nothing like going into a basement and being frightened by sprickets, but you have nothing to fear. They don't bite, aren't poisonous, and they really are harmless. They are an important source of food in their ecosystem for all sorts of creatures that eat them. Unfortunately for many people, this also means some species of snakes may try to find them for food in your basement. Again, your best bet to get rid of the sprickets so they don't attract larger predators. You can do this by sealing up your house, keeping the basement dry, removing all potential food sources (anything fabric, cloth, etc.), and shedding light on the area where they live.
If you would like to know more about sprickets then I'd encourage you to read my previous blog post on camel crickets, all about their natural history, biology, and 10 things you can do to help get rid of them from your house.