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The Homeowners Column
Crickets Invade Homes
State Master Gardener Coordinator
As maddening as the "tell tale heart" of Edgar Allen Poe fame is the incessant chirping of that cricket in the corner of your bedroom. Known for their ability to hide in dark places inaccessible to midnight shoe control, crickets can be a common nuisance in the home this time of year. Ok, I do admit that I love to hear crickets outside in the summer, but there must be something about the acoustics in the closet that turns background music to noise.
A couple different types of crickets can be found indoors, but all are mainly nuisance pests. Field crickets are commonly found near agricultural or grassy areas, but sometimes wander indoors. Field crickets are black and about an inch long. The good news is field crickets are not capable of reproducing indoors. Individuals live about two weeks indoors where they don't usually do much damage, but may feed on the edges of rugs.
Another cricket that may be found indoors is the house cricket. House crickets are about one half to three-quarters inch long, light yellowish-brown with three dark bands on the head with long thin antennae. They prefer warm areas and are often seen in cracks and crevices near the fireplace, kitchen, and basement.
House crickets usually live outdoors during the summer, but move into buildings as fall approaches. They can lay eggs indoors. House crickets can feed on draperies, garments, and fabrics, especially those soiled or saturated with food or perspiration. House crickets can be more damaging than field crickets because they can develop higher populations indoors. Since these are the crickets sold in pet stores and bait shops, maybe their appearance is a sign that it is time to get a pet frog or go fishing.
Camel crickets, also known as cave crickets, may also be found indoors. These crickets don't chirp, are brown, and about an inch long with a humped back. Their extremely long legs enable them to jump two to three feet, startling anyone venturing into a basement. Camel crickets can reproduce indoors, but feed mainly on mold and mildews.
Control measures for any of these crickets are basically the same. Caulk and/or seal all cracks and crevices around windows, doors, and foundations. Minimize the amount of plant material, fallen leaves and bark mulch around foundations and entryways. Minimize light usage since they attract crickets. Empty garbage cans frequently and eliminate sources of moisture by fixing leaky pipes and damp areas. Keep firewood piles at least one or two feet from the foundation. Indoors, crickets may be removed by vacuuming.
If you choose to use insecticides, those containing permethrin or cyfluthrin can be effective outdoors by spraying the foundation and adjacent one-foot strip of soil. Labeled indoor sprays may be used but are not usually necessary. Be sure to read and follow all label directions.
Sometimes you may notice something particularly gross when you squish a cricket. A long threadlike thing may emerge. Once you get beyond the initial "gross out" stage, horsehair worms are fascinating threadlike roundworms. They are often noticed squirming and twisting in birdbaths, swimming pools, water troughs, pet dishes, sinks, bathtubs or toilets. Horsehair worms can be as long as 14 inches. These parasites grow curled up inside the body cavity of crickets, grasshoppers and roaches. You thought you had indigestion. The good news is horsehair worms are internal parasites of insects only and do not harm humans, animals or plants. Insects on the other hand die from the parasite.
On a livelier note, join Master Gardeners at the Idea Garden at the U of I Arboretum, just south of the corner of Florida and Lincoln in Urbana on September 15 at 10:00 am for a program on roses.