13 October 2008
Virginia Cooperative Extension, Charlottesville/Albemarle County Office
460 Stagecoach Road, Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
phone: 434.872.4580 fax: 434.872.4578
Feeling a little jumpy lately? Late summer and early fall are when cricket populations seem to be everywhere there is vegetation and sometimes in your house. This is not usually a problem for our landscapes as crickets are omnivorous and may eat anything from decaying vegetation to each other but most people do not like to find them where they live.
Certain crickets are a pest merely by their presence and others because of their monotonous chirping when we are trying to get some sleep. In some countries, crickets have been kept as pets for thousands of years, valued for their chirping which may seem pleasant to some.
Indoors, some crickets can feed on a wide variety of fabrics, foods and paper products. Cotton, linen, wool, rayon, nylon, silk and furs are susceptible, along with soiled fabrics, sizing from wallpaper, glue from book bindings, fruit, vegetables, meat and even other crickets. An occasional cricket or two in the home usually presents no serious problem. However, large populations may congregate around lights at night, making places unattractive.
Crickets get their name from the high-pitched sound or “chirp” produced when the male rubs his front wings together to attract a female. Their songs can identify crickets, like birds, and there are commercially available sound recordings to help one quickly become an expert.
Crickets come in many shapes and sizes and are commonly categorized using basic characteristics. The True Crickets which include the house, field, ground, and tree crickets resemble long-horned grasshoppers in having long antennae, singing organs on the front wings of the male and hearing organs on the front legs.
House Cricket adults are about 3/4 to 7/8 inch long, straw-colored, with three dark bands on the head and have long, slender antennae much longer than the body. Wings lay flat on the back but are bent down abruptly on the sides. Females have a long, slender, tube-like structure projecting from their abdomen for egg laying.
Field Cricket adults range in size from 1/2 to 1-1/4 inches long depending on the species, are usually black-colored (sometimes brown), have long, slender antennae and a typical stout body (more robust than the house cricket) with large “jumping” hind legs. Most chirp and may sing both day and night.
Ground Cricket adults resemble house and field crickets but are much smaller, usually less than 1/2 inch long, and brownish. Their songs are often soft, high-pitched, pulsating trills or buzzes.
Snowy Tree Cricket adults are about 5/6 to 7/8 inch long and pale yellow or green. Male wings are broad, paddle-like, and lay flat on the back at rest, whereas the female forewing is narrow, and wrapped closely about the body. They chirp at a regular rate varying with the temperature. A good approximation of the temperature in degrees Fahrenheit is to add 40 to the number of chirps in 15 seconds. These are the crickets commonly heard in the background noises of TV and movies. Most deliver loud trills.
Camel Cricket adults, sometimes called cave or cellar crickets, are a little over 3/4 inch long, light tan to dark brown, wingless, with head bent downward, back arched in a humpbacked appearance, large hind legs, and long antennae.
There are special songs for courtship, fighting, and sounding an alarm. The principle role is to bring the sexes together with different songs in different species. Male crickets “sing” by rubbing a sharp edge called the scraper at the base of one front wing along a file-like ridge on the bottom side of the other front wing, resulting in a series of “chirps.” The number of chirps varies with the temperature with faster chirping at higher temperatures. Chirps vary from four to five to more than 200 per second. The song is amplified by the wing surface.
Crickets are usually active at night, prefer shelter in cracks and crevices, and invade homes seeking moisture. An occasional cricket or two in the home usually presents no serious problem. They are rarely serious pests in the home.
Sanitation is the most important means of eliminating nuisance crickets. Here are some tips.
- Keep all areas in and around buildings free of moisture, dense vegetation, and weeds.
- A one-foot band next to foundation will suffice.
- Mow lawns, cut weeds, and clean up garbage collection areas.
- Remove harborage sites such as piles of bricks, stones, rotting wood and other debris.
- Caulk and seal all cracks and crevices, especially near the ground level at basement windows and doorways.
- Make sure that all windows and doors are tight fitting with proper screening in place.
- Avoid bright mercury vapor lights in entryways and along structure perimeters since crickets will be attracted from far distances.
- Convert to sodium vapor yellow lights (less attractive to insects) instead of white, neon or mercury vapor lights.
- Never store firewood next to the house foundation.
- Raise garbage cans off the ground if practical.
- Trash and dumpsters should be placed as far from the building as possible. Crickets are attracted to food in these areas. Crickets may be troublesome at trash dumps, grassy roadsides, pasture fields and wooded areas that they use as breeding sites before entering structures.
For more information about this and other landscape topics contact your local Virginia Cooperative Extension office. The local Virginia Cooperative Extension office numbers are Albemarle 872-4580, Fluvanna 591-1950, Greene 985-5236, Louisa 540-967-3422, and Nelson 263-4035.