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Pest of the Month - Crickets

Male Field Cricket, Nebraska Extension Acreage Insights November 2017.
A male field cricket near a human dwelling.

As autumn nears and we finish our final summer barbeques, insects may begin to make their way into our homes, garages, or nearby landscapes. One of the more common of these fall invaders is the humble cricket. Specifically, we are talking about the fall field cricket (Gryllus pennsylvanicus). This species is the classic black cricket that most people imagine when they think of a cricket. They are about 1-1.5 inches long, have large heads, and can be dark brown or black in coloration. Naturally, they live in fields, lawns, and forest edges but when temperatures cool they will move towards basements and garages quite readily. Most often they are found in shallow tunnels or in piles of mixed up decomposing vegetation (such as thatch in the lawn) but once in a human dwelling they end up under objects like trash cans, buckets, or boxes.

As a pest, the field cricket would rank relatively low. They rarely cause significant damage to plants or stored products. But, as some of you can probably attest, there is a psychological pest status to something that makes so much noise. Cricket calling, or chirping, is a nocturnal mating activity that can annoy us and rob us of sleep. Both males and females can chirp, unlike the cicadas where only the male produces noise. The chirp is made by rubbing the wings together. On the left forewing is a series of scrapers that when rubbed against a series of teeth on the right forewing will create a chirp. Males are the callers and will find a hole in the ground or a crack in concreate to help echo their song to greater distances. He will make a high pitched three-note trill which is answered by a simpler two-note female reply. If the female is enticed enough by the song, she will mate with the male. The loudest male has the most success with the females, but is also more likely to be discovered by predators. So, you have to face danger in order to find love in the cricket world. It’s almost romantic! After mating, the female will lay over 400 eggs in the soil, where they will overwinter and hatch next spring in preparation of disrupting your sleep next autumn.

Cricket control is difficult as they are good hiders and are not usually feeding on anything indoors. Good IPM practices such as sealing entry point into the home with screening or caulk will help to limit the number of intruders. You can also utilize sticky traps indoors in areas where you have crickets every year. A perimeter spray with Ortho Home Defense can help to prevent crickets but would have to be reapplied after one month.

Image of Jonathan Larson
Jonathan Larson
Extension Educator - Entomology

Jonathan Larson is the Nebraska Extension entomologist for Douglas and Sarpy counties. His main focus is lawn and landscape pests but he also helps with bed bugs, roaches, and any other home invader that has six or more legs. Jonathan has his Bachelor of Science in Entomology from Purdue University, and his Ph.D. in Entomology from the University of Kentucky.

Contact Jonathan at:
Douglas/Sarpy County Extension
8015 W Center Rd.
Omaha, NE 68124-3175
(402) 444-7804