Have a camel cricket infestation? I do, and I have some gratuitous advice for anyone who’d like to get rid of them.
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, and even wood. And each other (you really didn’t want to know that, did you?). And 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. If you’re in the United States and really want to know which species you have, check out this page . The folks at Your Wild Life are also requesting that you report your infestation (so take some good photographs to send them).
Camel crickets often hide during the day (or not: see them on a ceiling at photograph below), 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. If your population is really large, mice will likely move into the basement to feed on the beasties, and then you have a mouse problem, too. 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, and that’s probably why you searched for “what are those things in my basement and how can I kill them?“ And that’s why you found this page.
10 ways to get rid of them
1. Make sticky traps out of duct tape. Place a piece of dry cat food or equivalent on the sticky surface. Crickets just love dry cat food. But really, once the first cricket gets stuck they’ll be on that trap trying to eat the first guy.
If you like doing stupid science projects to impress your friends, put different types of bait on the traps (as in photo to right). Let me know what works the best. If you have kids, pit them against each other with the challenge of designing the most effective trap. You can reward the one 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. They like water, and will fall into these containers and drown. The soap is just a way to counteract the waxy coating their exoskeletons have, so they sink faster.
3. Hunt them with an Airsoft gun. But you have to blast music that fits the task while you do it. Your options include soundtrack from The Descent, Aliens, or Starship Troopers. Remember to wear safety goggles. And use biodegradable ammunition if you don’t want to clean up after the carnage. Unfortunately, the 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.)
4. Buy a Siamese cat. We have one of these, named Fleabane, and she is a ruthless camel cricket predator. Hunts them down and eats them, leaving only legs. Kind of creeps us out, truth be told. Or buy a pug. They aren’t good for anything else, but mine eats camel crickets, just like Fleabane. Pugs will eat anything, truth be told. That’s probably TMI.
5. Release predators. Mice just love to eat camel crickets, so just get a few at a local pet store and release them into your basement. 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 (really).
6. Attack them with a weed trimmer. In my crazy youth in Salt Lake City, I used a weed trimmer to control snails in our vegetable garden, 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. I’d wear safety goggles so the juices wouldn’t get in my eyes. Note to reader: these were big snails and actually did deserve to die horrible deaths. 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 them clean.
7. Vacuum them up. I’m assuming you are busy and really don’t have time to vacuum the basement walls each day, so here’s what you do:
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.
8. Spray with chemicals. They are insects, so most insecticides will work. But this is a lame remedy. If you make your basement too toxic, you can’t lock your kids down there.
9. Waterproof your basement. Once you cut off the moisture supply, you cut off of the fungal growth and the crickets will starve. This is actually what I’ve been doing with my spare time, and it turns out it’s a lot of work, which is why it’s so far down on my 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. Or plot. I’m not really sure.
10. Move. This is a really attractive option for me. Our town’s nickname is Swampmore. I should’ve known better.