Camel crickets (also known as sprickets because they look like spiders) feed on fungi that grow on damp basement walls. When they can’t find fungus they are reported to eat carpet, cardboard, wood, and even each other. There’s even an Australian species that eats one of its own legs when sufficiently hungry (watch the video, if you dare). There are hundreds of different species of camel crickets, but they cannot be distinguished by number of humps — they all have just one. Note that camel crickets are different from cave crickets. Unless you live in a cave, you have camel crickets.
Camel crickets often hide during the day, but you can tell you have a large population when their frass colors walls dark brown. Frass is poop, by the way — if you watched Sideways, that’s why the name “Frass Canyon Vineyards” is so darn funny. When the crickets migrate out of the basement in search of food and moist places to lay their eggs, they tend to creep the bejesus out of unsuspecting family members … which is why I was motivated to make this page.
Some ways to get rid of them
1. Make sticky traps out of duct tape, then bait with a piece of dry cat food or equivalent. Any food works. Indeed, once the first cricket gets stuck they’ll all be on that trap trying to eat the first one even before it’s dead. If you’re too lazy to make your own sticky trap, just search for “mouse sticky traps” on your favorite online retailer, or buy them at a big-box home improvement store.
If you like doing stupid science projects to impress your friends, put different types of bait on the traps. If you have kids, pit them against each other with the challenge of identifying the most effective bait (Fruit Loops versus Lucky Charms??). You can reward the kid that comes up with the most crickets at the end of the week. Or you can punish the loser — depends on your parenting style!
2. Place containers of soapy water in your basement. Camel crickets love water and will fall into these containers and drown. The soap is just a way to counteract the waxy coating on their exoskeletons so they sink faster.
3. Buy an electronic rat trap (e.g. on Amazon). I prefer this method over everything else because it’s instant death rather than something slow (insects have brains and neurons just like you). Get the kind that is activated by moisture not heat (infrared). FYI, electronic traps have enough amperage to cause a cricket to explode, complete with a satisfying crackle. On this note, make sure you don’t set the trap near something flammable like open cans of paint thinner. Also, make sure your basement doesn’t have a gas leak. That would be bad.
4. Hunt them with an airsoft gun. Remember to wear safety goggles to protect from ricochets. And remember, don’t let your kid take the airsoft gun to a playground, or to school, or to the airport (etc). You can use biodegradable ammunition if you don’t want to pick up the pellets, of course, although the surviving crickets will probably eat the pellets (doh!). Note that if you get a weapon for each member of your family, this can be a bonding experience and can even qualify for Family Home Evening if you live in Utah. (Family Home Evening is Monday night, just in case you’re not Mormon and don’t know better. Don’t embarrass yourself by doing it on Tuesday. Been there.) Don’t pass up the opportunity to play music that fits the task, such as the soundtrack from The Descent, Aliens, or Starship Troopers.
5. If your family is looking for fun bonding activity but is against weapons, get each member a bug-zapping racket (e.g., like this one). I own one of these and can confirm that they kill houseflies efficiently and are moderately enjoyable to use. The flies spark, sizzle, and pop in a satisfying way, and chasing the flies around the house with a racket does, in fact, burn more calories that hunting them with rubber bands (which I’m very, very good at). The racket I have takes 2 AA batteries, which last about a month or so during the peak fly season. Pro tip: don’t touch the wires … the shock is really like an electrical shock, and hurts. I’ve tested this, just like I’ve foolishly tested electric fences in my youth (XY syndrome). If you have a family member with a heart condition or Pacemaker who might react poorly to electrical shocks, keep the racket out of their reach. Also, if the excitement of just watching might push these folks into arrhythmia, send them out on a long errand while you do your thing.
6. Less exciting, but also fun for kids is a long-armed bug vacuum. Here are a bunch on Amazon. I don’t get kickbacks so don’t feel obliged to even click on that link. Just know that there are such things, and they look mildly fun.
7. Buy a Siamese cat. We had one of these and she was a ruthless camel cricket predator. Hunted them down and ate them, leaving only legs. Kind of creeped us out, truth be told. But whatever. Our other cat, a Himalayan, is completely useless. She’ll only eat wet food, and only if it’s a particular kind and at room temperature. But I digress.
8. Release mice in your basement. Mice just love to eat camel crickets. And then, to get rid of the mice, go to the pet store and buy one of those giant centipedes from the tropics. Watch this video if you doubt that a centipede can kill and eat a mouse. Don’t watch the video if you’ve just eaten. And don’t watch the video if you ever plan to travel to the Amazon.
9. Keep chameleons in your basement. When I was growing up in squalor in East Lansing, Michigan, my parents bought two chameleons to keep the roach population under control. They had the run of the house and were adorable to boot. When I was young I thought everyone had chameleons for this same reason (ah, foolish youth). Anyway, I’m sure chameleons will eat camel crickets. Just make sure to give them a heat lamp and a water source. And make sure that when chameleons crawl under a rug, that you don’t inadvertently step on them and flatten them, only to discover their dry husks months later. That’s another story altogether, as is why chameleons would crawl under rugs in the first place. Sniff.
10. Attack them with a weed trimmer. My family used a weed trimmer to control snails in our vegetable garden when we lived in Salt Lake City, and it was great fun. “Great fun” for a teenager in Salt Lake City is probably a questionable phrase, but I do have fond memories of this. They might be false fond memories, though, just like much of my time there. I wore safety goggles so the juices and shell shards wouldn’t get in my eyes. The big problem with doing this in your basement is that the cricket juice and attached limbs will just get sprayed all over the walls, and then you’ll have that to deal with. Of course, the camel crickets left alive will slowly eat the surfaces clean (I’m an optimist).
11. Buy a Roomba vacuum bot. I don’t own one of these and have never even seen one, but I’m tempted to buy one just for this pupose. Ideally, attach food to it in some way so the little devils actually move toward it. Or put food in the center of your basement in a way that is protected from the Roomba, then let the robot loose. If you are Roomba rep, maybe you could gift one to me with the expectation that I might be good advertising. Come on, you know it would. I’d put a GoPro on it …
12. If you have a spare vacuum, buy a Belkin WeMo motion switch at Targét and set it up next to a secured pile of food. Then plug your vacuum cleaner into the power switch component of the motion switch (which will get activated by the motion) and position the vacuum attachment tube really close to the pile of food. If your basement is dark, also set up a little battery-operated, motion-sensing light so that cricket movement causes the little area to be illuminated enough for the motion sensor to work. Then use the Belkin smartphone app to make 2 rules. Rule 1: when motion sensed, turn switch on, then off immediately (this sucks up the cricket and returns unit to sensing mode). Rule 2: when switch activated, send notification (this tells you that a cricket has been sucked). Rule 2 isn’t really necessary, but it sure is fun to get those notifications on your phone during a boring meeting. You can silently whisper, “Yessssss. Yea, life sucks, you creepy little bastard. Die, die, die.” If you’re really Type A, you can link up the device with IFTTT so that number of sucks per day is recorded in a spreadsheet. All of the above details are illustrated in my post, “Using motion-activated vacuum cleaner to control camel crickets.” There’s even a movie, for all you doubters. Yes, indeed, I am Type A. How did you guess??
13. Use diatomaceous earth. You can buy bags of this at most hardware stores, or online. Just spread it around areas where crickets congregate. The sharp, microscopic diatoms (they are long-dead algae with hard, silicized cell walls) work their way into crickets’ limb joints and in between segment plates … and also scrape off the protective layer of wax on the crickets’ exoskeletons. They probably die of dehydration, though entomologists argue about the exact cause of death. Whatever the mode of death, they deserve it. Please note, however, that diatomaceous earth is composed of fossilized organisms that are millions of years old; if objects older than 6000 years tend to undermine your world view, don’t buy it.
14. Use insecticides. Camel crickets are insects, so any broad-spectrum insecticide will work (e.g., Raid). I’ve heard of people using Niban (imidacloprid) granules, too … but don’t use that if you have or like honeybees. Note, also, that if you make your basement too toxic, you can’t lock your kids down there. Also this: if you dose your insects up and you have pets, pets might be snacking on dosed insects. If you are sick of your annoying pet, that’s something to keep in mind.
15. Waterproof your basement. Once you cut off the moisture supply, you cut off of the fungal growth and the crickets will starve … though it might never get your population to the zero you want. I’ve actually spent a few years remortering my basement, and it turns out it’s a lot of work, which is why it’s way down on this list. I’ve gone through about 700 lbs of cement already, plugging gaping holes in the foundation and also applying at least 1/2″ of cement to all surfaces. It really sucks, and it’s actually not doing a whole lot to control my cricket population. They just watch me from the dark corners and laugh. And my back hurts.
16. Buy a dehumidifier. If you can drop the moisture level to where fungi cannot grow, the crickets will starve. Again, this won’t get rid of all them, but the population numbers will go down if you keep the unit on all the time. I have one that vents water to outside via a hose, so I don’t need to monitor it at all. I say that not to brag. I’m just saying.
17. Move to a different house. This is a really attractive option for me. Our town’s nickname is Swampmore. I should’ve known better.