Camel Cricket Cliff Notes

As previously mentioned, we’re going to introduce you to some of the undergraduate students and recent grads who work hard behind-the-scenes to keep Your Wild Life ticking.

Today, recent graduate Katlin Mooneyham explains how she learned to ID camel crickets.

Credit: J. Nygren, Walnut Cove, NC

We here at Your Wild Life have been talking a big game lately about camel crickets. We asked you to report your sightings and share photos of the leggy beasts in your basement.  Thanks so much to so many of you that have heeded our call for help!

We’re not experts on Orthoptera* so we called on our entomologist pal Piotr Naskrecki to help us identify the crickets in your photos.

[*Orthoptera refers to the group of insects that includes crickets, grasshoppers, and katydids.] We were surprised to learn that the vast majority of pictures you shared with us starred a camel cricket native to Japan, not North America: Diestrammena asynamora.

As we continue to track the camel cricket, big questions have emerged:  When did those Japanese crickets get here? How did they end up in our basements? What do they eat? Does anything eat them? Are there differences between the crickets that live in your basement versus mine?

We’ll detail our efforts to answer some of these scientific questions (and likely ask you to help us do so) in upcoming posts here on the blog.

Drawer of camel crickets in NCSU Insect Museum. Photo credit: Holly Menninger

But in the meantime, we realized there’s an important question many of you submitting pictures have asked, but we weren’t able to answer (until now) – How can you tell the difference between native and Japanese camel crickets?

So in the name of science, we took a field trip to the NCSU Insect Museum. With a key to the Rhaphidophoridae (the scientific name for the group we call camel crickets) in hand, we set off to understand the differences between native camel crickets in the genus Ceuthophilus (what we would have expected to find in your homes) and the common Japanese genus Diestrammena.

And so we proceeded to pull out four drawers filled with camel crickets (A way cool aside: the NCSU Insect Museum is in the process of digitizing their ENTIRE collection. You can zoom in and see exactly what we saw in those drawers HERE.)

Rather than walk you entirely through the entire dichotomous key, full of tedious and hard-to-understand insect anatomical terms (thanks to Holly and my Entomology 101 textbook for helping me out when we did do this), I’ll provide the highlights of the differences I observed below – consider this the Cliff Notes version of camel cricket taxonomy.

Anatomy of an insect leg: 1 – Coxa, 2 – Trochanter, 3 – Femur, 4 – Tibia, 5 – Tarsus (Credit: NCSU CALS)

First you should check out the cricket-in-question’s hind leg, quite notably designed for jumping (which camel crickets are inclined to do right at you!).

Each leg contains five segments – focus your attention on the tibia (#4 in the figure), it’s the part of the leg below the meaty femur (#3), somewhat analogous to the arrangement of bones on your own leg.

Examine the figures below – You’ll see that the native Ceuthophilus species (left) has large, movable spines on its hind tibiae, quite noticeable to the naked eye. The non-native cricket (right) has hind tibiae that are missing those spines; the hind legs in general also appear longer and more slender.

The native camel cricket Ceuthophilus (left) and the Japanese camel cricket Diestrammena (right). Photo credit: Holly Menninger

The coloration and body shape are two other useful indicators to distinguish the native and non-native camel crickets. The native Ceuthophilus appears more mottled in color while the Japanese Diestrammena has a distinct banded pattern, particularly on its legs.. Regarding body shape, Ceuthophilus generally appears more solid and thick bodied, meatier, whereas the non-native cricket is comparatively leaner, more slender, and somewhat smaller in size.

Hopefully, you’ll now have a better handle on how to distinguish the native from the Japanese variety of camel crickets. Continue to keep your eyes peeled on the dark and damp corners of your home, particularly now that Spring is upon us and the crickets are becoming more active.  Share your reports and pictures with us so that we can continue to map the distribution of species and start answering the lingering questions we have about the ecology and evolution of the camel crickets that may call your house home.

Katlin Mooneyham is a recent graduate from NC State with a degree in Natural Resources. She has been with the Dunn Lab since September 2011 and loves learning about everything that shapes our natural world, especially our insect friends (and foes). She plans on attending Virginia Tech in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in Entomology.

By |2016-11-22T13:47:41+00:00March 9th, 2012|

About the Author:

Holly Menninger
As Director of Public Science, Holly coordinates our empire of citizen science projects and manages the online science communication here at Your Wild Life. An entomologist by training, she’s a science communicator by passion and practice.

38 Comments

  1. Lorraine November 13, 2012 at 1:24 am - Reply

    Hi!

    So I started seeing these guys for the first time last year when I began renting in Point Pleasant, NJ. They were particularly creepy looking. I just wanted to remark that something DOES eat them and whatever it is…their predator is also in my basement. I found torn off legs and shrunken bodies of these camel crickets in my basement as we reached fall last year. Again, creepy and gross for me but probably interesting for you guys :)

    • lexie December 18, 2012 at 4:59 pm - Reply

      Cats, in my expierence are the sprickets biggest killer.

      • Alex October 21, 2017 at 4:00 pm - Reply

        What about if you don’t have any cats?! We’ve been finding the legs torn off and shrunken bodies in our basement as well but we live in a townhouse and no cats come into our house.

  2. E November 19, 2012 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    We have an incredible amount of camel back crickets on the first floor of our home in Coram, NY. They are repulsive. I killed 2 large ones and 3 smaller ones today. They’re so gross! I kill at least two a night. I will try to take pictures. Ugh, but the idea of getting close to them is revolting!

    • Holly
      Holly November 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      Remember, they won’t bite and can’t hurt you. And we’d sure appreciate it if you could send us pics!

  3. Marla November 26, 2012 at 10:38 pm - Reply

    I saw one last night for the first time in my home in Waynesville, NC. It is mainly uninhabited except for my infrequent visits. Anyway, my cat actually found it in my well lit, warm, cozy kitchen. Unfortunately I had no idea what it was nor did I photograph it. I was too busy laughing at my 4 cats that were completely spellbound by this leggy creature. I thought it was a wolf spider at first but upon closer inspection realized it was some type of cricket. Now I know it was a Japanese Camel Cricket. Thanks! For the record, my “basement” is unfinished with gravel, stone foundation and lots of damp, dark habitat.

  4. Sarah February 10, 2013 at 5:21 pm - Reply

    Saw the exhibit at the Efland Cheeks Elementary school science and math night last week and have been on the lookout. Found what we hoped was a native cricket in the downstairs of our church today. In better light, we now think it’s the Japanese cricket. Pics aren’t great but have some. Could also send the specimen if you want!

  5. Laura March 31, 2013 at 12:58 am - Reply

    I have them in my furnished basement in Southern Indiana. They are the Japanese variety. I came online looking for insect identification thinking that they were some kind of mutant cross between a scorpion and a grasshopper. Sounds kind of funny now that I know what they are. So glad to find the EXACT pic of what mine looks like right here! They are still creepy, but at least I know they are not poisonous.

  6. Annette April 10, 2013 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    I have had the North American camel crickets (thanks for the ID help) in my southern Missouri home since we moved here in 2006 – although with the installation of new duct work, I have not seen any recently. We have a crawlspace with a dirt floor under the home and they must have been getting into the ducts and coming thru our floor vents (along with mice, ants, etc.) Hopefully it’s helpful to know there are NA camel crickets in the states!

  7. Tina August 2, 2013 at 8:56 am - Reply

    I live in the small town of Wagoner, Ok and these little buggers have been invading much of this and the surrounding area more and more each year! I live in an old single wide trailer, drafty, and plenty of little holes for them to find their way easily into my home. It’s not uncommon for me to see one or two at least every other day! I leave them be and let them roam my humble abode in hopes they might possibly eat some of the spiders and other creepy little insects that meander inside…(maybe its just the same camel cricket and I should give him a name lol) I’m pretty sure a majority of what I see is the native species but I know I have seen at least one Japanese one in the last year and will take pics if and when I can! And just an added tidbit…they actually can bite you!! I fell asleep on my living room floor and had my arm under my pillow under my head and woke up to a sharp almost pinching feeling twice on my forearm and raised my pillow to see one of these creepy crawlers staring me in the face! That one I did send flying across the room like a golf ball with the tv remote! I’m pretty sure the only reason I was bitten was because it was trying to cross the room and when it got shimmied up underneathe my pillow and reached my arm it felt like it had nowhere to go but through the obstruction in front of it. I don’t see a swarm of killer camel crickets taking off anytime soon! Might make an interesting movie though! ^_^ lol

  8. Lori September 21, 2013 at 3:45 am - Reply

    I found it interesting that a native camel cricket was photographed in Regina, Saskatchewan because I had never seen one here before and my daughter recently caught one in our Regina basement. She put it in with our pet frogs, but she is too big for them to eat, so they have been living together happily for a couple of weeks. Are they common this far north?

    • Lea Shell
      Lea Shell September 24, 2013 at 4:59 pm - Reply

      Hi Lori! Thank you for your inquiry! GREAT question! We are asking the same exact questions about the distribution and establishing what is “normal” as well! We’d love to see a picture of the frogs and camel crickets coexisting! Please share your camel crickets with us here: http://yourwildlife.org/projects/camel-crickets/camel-cricket-survey/ We can’t wait to see! Thanks again for sharing with us!

  9. sherry wechsler October 7, 2013 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Hello,

    I must have at least a thousand of these giant camel crickets in my shed outside in the woods.

    I noticed them last year but didn’t think much of it, now they actually jump on you from the ceiling of the shed and they are all over the walls . My husband will not go in it at all because of them.

    I have found a use for them though my tree frog eats the young ones as they are small and will fit in her mouth. The large ones are huge and my neighbor uses them for fishing bait.

    All in all they are harmless and can be useful. I will try to get a picture it is quite unbelievable how many there are and what a mess they make on the floor of the shed.

    Sherry

    • Holly
      Holly October 7, 2013 at 1:27 pm - Reply

      Thanks, Sherry, for sharing your observations with us — Sounds like you have a LOT of camel crickets in your shed. We hope you can snap and share a few pics with us soon! Upload them here: http://crickets.yourwildlife.org/participate/

  10. Annette November 11, 2013 at 11:50 pm - Reply

    We don’t have a basement but we’ve been seeing about three of the Japanese crickets on our first floor of our house every day. We live in Waretown NJ. My husband has lived here his whole life (34 years) & had never seen one before.
    Our daughters have a playhouse out in the yard. It is 8 ft x 16 ft and (on the inside). This Spring I went out there to clean up and it was literally filled to capacity with Japanese camel crickets. I’m a hospice nurse by trade. Let me tell you, I’m not squeamish… That was disgusting. Took me a lot of self control to go in there and deal with it. I removed all the toy chests and cabinets… There were so many crickets I stopped counting at 300. There were at a minimum 500 and the playhouse was clean and tidy when it was closed up for winter.
    I set off a bug “bomb” and cleaned up the carnage and for a solid week afterward I was cleaning up at least 100 dead crickets a morning. The walls of the playhouse aren’t insulated or dry walled. It is build like a shed would be. These were crickets coming into the playhouse from the yard each night and dying from the pesticide residue.
    One evening I went over there and saw at least 50 on the outside siding of the playhouse. Just sitting there.
    We have a decent bat population here and they don’t seem interested in the crickets, nor do the local birds.
    We have seen them in our yard under deck boxes, in sheds and the garage, & under our porch daily. They seem to just live in the yard in massive numbers.

  11. […] On their website you can find pictures for identification and more detailed notes  on their blog about the differences between the Japanese v. American camel cricket. You can also join their […]

  12. Kim December 15, 2013 at 12:09 am - Reply

    The Asian camel cricket is alive and well in west central West Virginia! Neither our house nor our basement is damp, but they like us anyway. We’re up to 5 indoor cats now, so we don’t see as many of them as we used to. Now if we could just get the cats as interested in stink bugs…

  13. […] On their website you can find pictures for identification and more detailed notes  on their blog about the differences between the Japanese v. American camel cricket. You can also join their […]

  14. lisa April 21, 2014 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    Have had these crickets invade my home for years. ( Putnam County NY) They follow the heat pipes from the basement up to 1st and 2nd floor. I have tried everything from exterminators to dehumidifiers, to glue traps, bait granules, flyswatters etc etc. You cant imagine the fun of having one leap on you as your are umm, using the potty, I firmly believe they live and breed inside the walls of my home. I am at the point of selling my house because I cannot take it anymore.

  15. Barbara Gladhill April 22, 2014 at 6:30 pm - Reply

    We live in Long Valley, NJ. We never had cave crickets until we had a load of coal delivered. It came from PA. They wake me up at night crawling across my face! UGH! My neighbor keeps his shed door open year round! Does Borax contain the same ingredients they like to eat? We try to keep the mice out, I’d rather have the crickets than mice.

  16. LINDA May 24, 2014 at 3:02 pm - Reply

    I have a few crickets in the basement but I saw about 20 of them climbing up the foundation by my garage. They are in the floating part of my basement perimeter and come up to the first floor maybe 1 or 2 at a time. I heard that Cedar Oil will discourage them from coming in. Each year I see less and less of them.

  17. Lorrie August 24, 2014 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    I was just changing the sheets on my son’s bed when one of the big natives crawled up the wall from behind the matress. I watched it for a few minutes and realized that it was chewing the lint balls off. I’m sure this is not part of their natural diet, but I would like to know what is. I was hoping to find answers here. I was always told it was good luck to have a cricket in your home though. Maybe not if it is going to eat the furniture… ;-)

    Durant, OK

  18. Rachel Malcolm November 22, 2014 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    I have camel crickets – the Asian per your pictures. My home is on a slab, it is two stories in Maryland inside the beltway around Washington, DC metro area. Approximately 100 yards from the Anacostia River, NE branch.

  19. Kim Ferrara December 18, 2014 at 3:05 am - Reply

    I live in Nassau County N.Y we have the Japanese camel crickets. They tend to stay in the basement however I have found one or two in the bathroom. I was curious how and where they lay their eggs. I have read somewhere else that if they do not find food they will eat their own leg and also each other. I have never been so afraid of an insect before. It is such a horrible feeling (FEAR) that is. Someone posted above that they have been bitten by one. I have read many times that they have no teeth and can not bite. I would like to know if they can. I am using glue traps as a means to catch them at the moment and the boards are working just fine. However, if these crickets bite I just might call in the big guns to make sure they are ALL gone for good.

    • Holly Menninger
      Holly Menninger December 18, 2014 at 12:41 pm - Reply

      Kim, we’re still learning a lot about camel cricket biology and don’t know the answer (yet) to when and where camel crickets lay eggs. They likely do it seasonally and probably lay the eggs in a moist place (why you likely found them in your basement and bathroom). Like all other crickets, they lay their eggs using a special egg-laying organ called an ovipositor. We have no evidence that these crickets bite — and we’ve handled A LOT of them! They don’t chirp, sting or bite so pose no threat to humans (other than to annoy and startle people are not big fans of insects as we are!). Camel crickets are scavengers — they feed opportunistically on decaying bits they find in their environment — whether that comes from a plant, from fungus, other dead insects, or even cat/dog food that’s not sealed up. Your best bet for getting rid of the camel crickets is to seal up spaces from access to the outside, eliminate moisture (for example, running a dehumidifier), and remove any possible food sources — that makes conditions inhospitable for them. Good luck!

  20. Matthew Fennell November 7, 2015 at 11:43 am - Reply

    Do they live outside or in my house, and do they live in giant colonies or nests?

  21. Justïne December 6, 2015 at 3:04 am - Reply

    Hi there! I’m pretty sure what we caught in our home and have been taking care of for a week now is a Japanese camel cricket. We’re in Kansas City, KS and I’d be happy to send you an e-mail with a pic if you’re still tracking these little guys!

    Your website has been super helpful, I was worried that we had somehow accidentally smuggled a weta over from our honeymoon in New Zealand but I no longer bear the guilt of almost introducing a new invasive species…it seems to be one that already invaded!

  22. Karen Walsh December 7, 2015 at 10:28 pm - Reply

    I found a cave cricket in Westhampton N Ywhile cleaning up a basement.I caught it and brought it home to check it out . It’s pretty cool looking.I don’t want to kill it by keeping it in a plastic Chinese food bowl. should I give it food or water.

  23. Michele Haworth ❤ June 22, 2016 at 8:13 pm - Reply

    I just moved to Bayfield Colorado a week ago, and I live in a remodeled basement which dose have a bedroom and a bathroom and it’s frezzing in there all the time, I don’t think it’s damp cuz I don’t no how that feels compared to very cold, right outside my double doors there was a Bull snake or garden snake,Which my son killed
    It,right outside my door is a retaining wall with weeds dirt shrubs tall grass, and big trees,I’m a city girl never lived in the Rockies before, my husband passedaway 3 yrs ago and I’ve been living with my son and daughter in law and two kids,imma 56 yrs old and I’m not use to these creepy critters at all, and I was told a few days ago that there’s brown recluse spirders here and trap door spirders,and Wolf spirders that freaken jump atcha,I’m like
    OM?G’
    I even have 4 kittys in my bedroom and they never seem a spirder at all that I no of’, anyways So today I was about to start washing clothes and looked up and saw a freaken spirder and all I had is albathroom wall cleaner with bleach so I sprayed at it and it ran inside of the light cover dammmm it,so I desided not to wash clothes today, so a little bit later time went on and I was about to walk downstairs when I saw something out of my profile vision and look up and I’ll be dammm,way up in the Crack of the ceiling & wall I totally started freaken out and panic attacks started fast and all I had was that bathroom cleaner with bleach once again so I put it on stream and grab a burem and it was tanish brown with cricket like back legs but spirder everything else, and it fell all the way down and started jumping tords me and I kept spring it and spraying it and trying to hit it with the stuiped brum,and it freaken wouldn’t die and when it would hit the wall I would hear it thump the wall,I really thought it was a Wolf freaken spirder, I started shaking so bad that I had to get out of the house and run over to the neighbor that I just meet the night before cuz nobody’s home with me until next week, I’m like OM?G so I was trying to talk with the new neighbor and not cry but a panic attack hit me so bad and right now 6 hours later I’m still not breathing right while my body kinda shaking ShiT! I did take a picture of it but I don’t no how to get it to you on here, the picture is just a tiny bit fussy but you can still see it! I’m so freaken scared to go to bed tonight, I called my son and told him to have this place sprayed for everything crawling if not imma frail I’m gonna have a freaken heartatack OM?G! PLEASE TELL ME WHERE TO SEND YOU THE PICTURE TOO THANK YOU LOTS! Sorry if I kept rambling on but I do feel a little bit better texting all this on here! Please wish me lotsaluck! Thank you!
    Michele Haworth

    • Lea Shell
      Lea Shell July 28, 2016 at 3:46 pm - Reply

      Feel free to send the picture to yourwildlife@gmail.com! Hope you are doing better! Rest assured that they don’t bite!

  24. Stephanie July 9, 2016 at 12:15 am - Reply

    We live in the Texas panhandle, and I just found one of the Japanese camel crickets in our bathroom yesterday -first time I’ve ever seen one. I killed it pretty quickly because it creeped me out, and I had no idea what is was. Before I did, though, I took a picture (blurry, unfortunately) to show my husband, and he remembers seeing them years ago. I appreciate the information provided here and was able to identify the species based off of it. Thanks!

  25. Michael Young January 19, 2017 at 5:31 pm - Reply

    They are foul creatures that will eat one another.

  26. Tiffany Griffin March 7, 2017 at 11:04 pm - Reply

    How do I get rid of them. I am terrified of jumping insects! Especially the ones that jump at you! Please help me!

  27. Laura LaMantia July 26, 2017 at 10:47 pm - Reply

    My cat brought me a dead camel cricket. This was in my second floor bedroom where I happen to have a supplemental a/c dehumidifier going. If they prefer dark, humid areas, this one may have been lost. In 17 years in this house (in Austin, TX), this was the first time I had ever seen anything like this so I had to google it. I have a picture of it but I don’t see a way to post it here from my phone.

  28. Chris dunlap September 28, 2017 at 8:45 pm - Reply

    I live in new castle Delaware I first saw one last year when I had a pipe replaced in my bathroom still have to have dry wall replaced seeing more this year

  29. Chris dunlap September 29, 2017 at 12:04 am - Reply

    Hot shot ant and roach plus germ killer does a good job

  30. Nathan Siegel October 23, 2017 at 2:29 am - Reply

    I love these things! They are so fascinating! I have an aquarium dedicated to these things that I keep them in as something cool to look at! And I feed them fruit.

  31. Nathan Siegel October 23, 2017 at 2:29 am - Reply

    I love these things! They are so fascinating! I have an aquarium dedicated to these things that I keep them in as something cool to look at! And I feed them fruit.

Leave A Comment