CRICKETS INDOORS AND OUTDOORS

Late summer and early fall is the time that crickets become most noticeable in the environment. The late day and evening air is often filled with the sounds of crickets on the ground chirping, and the last of the tree crickets and katydids on the remaining leaves are usually singing. This will all end after a few hard frosts. While the sound of the males chirping outside (females do not make any calling sounds) may be nice, when they move indoors they may become a pest. It is not uncommon for crickets, especially the shiny black, field cricket (Gryllus spp.) to move indoors at this time of year. The reasons for this may be related to low temperatures at night and the fact that the sides of houses and other structures retain some of the heat of the day. The crickets may simply be moving toward a warm place to spend the night, and enter houses through door thresholds and around windows. Some of the most common crickets found in or around structures at this time include camel crickets and field crickets.

Camel Crickets. These insects are rather strange looking because of their pronounced hump-backed shape, usually without wings and long antennae. They are light brown in color, and the females have a very long and slender ovipositor that may look like a stinger. Of course, without wings they do not make any sounds; their pest status is based on the fact that they often aggregate in large numbers. These crickets are usually found in moist habitats, such as in crawl spaces, garages, and sometimes in damp basements. They feed on a variety of things, but prefer living or dead plant leaves. The females lay eggs in soft, moist soil and the eggs overwinter and hatch in the spring.

Control of these crickets usually requires some alteration of the environment, including reducing the humidity (if possible) and preventing their access by sealing around openings to the outside. Reducing the sites that provide harborage, such as piles of newspapers or cardboard, stacks of wood, or boxes will also limit their success indoors. Once populations are isolated then chemical control strategies will be come more effective. In some cases granular baits (such as those available for cockroaches) can be used for control, and spraying harborage sites with liquid insecticide is effective. These insects are susceptible to low concentrations of most garden and household insecticides, so chemical control should be easily done.

Field Crickets. These are the familiar black crickets that are found around doors and the sides of houses in the late summer. They live on the ground and are primarily nocturnal in their courting and feeding activities. The males stake out a small territory in the grass and from this site they call (chirping) females. They can make a variety of sounds, including warning sounds to other males ("this is my territory"), calling sounds to females at a distance, and a different sound once the female cricket has come closer ( Does any of this sound just a little familiar!).

Field crickets live on the ground and eat plant material. They prefer moist, protected sites where they can find food, shelter and egg laying sites. The females mate and lay eggs at this time of year. She has a long, slender ovipositor and lays eggs singly in moist soil, the eggs overwinter and hatch in the spring. Their development is slow and it usually takes them most of the summer to become full grown. Because of their preferred habitats (moist and protected), they do not survive indoors, where it is usually too dry for them and they are easy prey to some house spiders (especially in the fall when wolf spiders are active).

On warm nights or close to a structure (where the temperature is slightly higher) their chirping can be quite regular and loud. But as the nights get colder the chirping slows down until, well it finally gets too cold and they do not survive the night. While you can hear a difference in the chirps in relation to the temperature, this is not the cricket for which "the number of chirps = temperature" formula is written. That is a tree cricket and you have to have a keen ear to be able to pick out this cricket from some others in the tree and on the ground.

The pest status of field crickets is based on their presence indoors, since most homemakers believe they will eat or damage household materials (which is unlikely), and the chirping of the males indoors (usually they are secluded and difficult to locate except for the chirping!). These crickets will not become established indoors and will likely die within a week because of the lack of suitable food and humidity. Control can be best directed at preventing them from entering and collecting them once indoors. Spraying around the perimeter of the building is probably of little value since the insecticide will not last long and the chance of actually contacting crickets is small. Sticky traps near doors and windows may be helpful, and spraying around the outside of doors may also be helpful when there seems to be a severe problem.

House cricket. These are small, brown crickets that look very similar to the field cricket (but a different color, but these crickets are well adapted to living indoors and may not be found outdoors. This species is a household pest because it has adapted to the food and humidity found in houses. These crickets are not common, but in some older houses there may be small populations. Control of this species is best accomplished with granular baits and the use of sticky traps.

CRICKETS AND CHIRPS

How do crickets make the sounds we hear? The males rub their wings together very rapidly (it is grasshoppers that rub their legs against their wings). There are ridges on the underside of the wings that when they scrape together they make a sound. Female crickets have special "ears" located on their front legs that help them detect the sounds made by the male crickets.

SOLDIER BEETLE LARVAE--ON THE MOVE!

It has been a wet and lush summer; and lots of insects have had a rather "succcessful" year--including soldier beetles. Many homeowners are becoming aware of the success soldier beetles have had this summer because the larvae of these yellow and black beetles are starting to migrate in large numbers into basements and ground-floor rooms. The migration usually follows a rain, perhaps when the natural habitat (the lawn) becomes too wet, and temperatures start to cool.

The adult beetles are found in large number on the flowers of goldenrod, milkweed, and other plants in the late summer and fall. They are there feeding on pollen and nectar, and when not doing that they are mating and laying eggs (for which the pollen and nectar provides the energy!). The eggs soon hatch and the larvae set about to do their thing, which is to be a predator of caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects found on the ground. The larvae of some species are predators of grasshopper eggs. So, by this time of year there is a fair population of larvae that are either going to finish development and pupate, or simply ride out the winter and pupate in the spring.

Large populations of soldier beetle larvae may be present in turfgrass or in adjacent fields (and move into the grass searching for food). In the fall, usually with the first nights of cold temperatures and rain, soldier beetle larvae start moving (perhaps toward the warmth of the house?), and end up on patios or inside the house. It is probably no useful or even possible to achieve much chemical control, since they may be coming from almost any direction--where to spray? Best just to sweep them up or out of the house. They will not infest the house, and are unlikely to be a yearly problem.

WHEELBUGS - ALWAYS A FAVORITE THIS TIME OF YEAR!

These large, and rather threatening insects are common this time of year. Usually they can be found moving slowly on a tree truck or on the last few standing branches of plants in the vegetable garden. They are predators of other insects and they are out there looking for a caterpillar, beetle, or some other tastey bug to grab and make lunch of. They have very effective piercing and sucking mouthparts and can quickly empty a prey of its blood, then cast it aside. This insect gets it's common name, wheelbug, from the cog-like crest on the region of the body behind the head.

Wheelbugs are beneficial insects in that they are predators on other insects, but they can be a serious problem for humans if they are handled. Those piercing mouthparts which can easily puncture the skin of an insect can also puncture (painfully!) the skin of your hand. These critters are a "look but don't touch" bug, especially for small children.

FIREWOOD PILES AND INSECTS: ROACHES AND BEETLES

Time to get the firewood pile organized! Get the old stuff off the bottom and make it ready for the fireplace in a few weeks. Often associated with the old and perhaps more wet and decayed wood in the woodpile are a variety of insects. The most common are a species of cockroach that lives under the bark, and several species of beetles that may be under the bark or deep into the wood. If the beetles are not there, their feeding galleries may be.

There is at least one species of cockroach that is associated with the decaying wood beneath the bark of logs--hardwood or softwood. Although it is usually found in forested areas, it can and does occur in woodpiles. This cockroach will not infest houses if brought there accidently--but it may be best to remove the bark of old logs just to be certain that this insects is not introduced into the house. Regardless of whether it will infest or not, a few cockroach nymphs scampering out of a long onto the floor of the den can make for some nervous homemakers!

The most common insects found in recent or old logs are beetles, either the larvae or the adults. Certainly, the damage to the wood by these beetles can be seen in most firewood logs. The common invaders are long-horned beetles (family Cerambycidae) and metallic wood-boring beetles (family Buprestidae). The adult beetles are quite different looking, and the larvae are quite distinct.

Buprestid larvae (sometimes called flatheaded borers) have a large flattened area at the front part of the body, and the remainder of the body is slender and tapered. These larvae feed between the bark and the top layer of wood, creating winding channels in the surface. After time at the wood surface they usually tunnel into the wood to complete development. These larvae are often encountered in logs that may be just one year old, and may infest logs that are cut from trees that are felled in mid to late summer.

Long-horned beetle larvae (sometimes called roundheaded borers) also tunnel into firewood logs, but their feeding habits are slightly different the buprestids (flatheaded borers). These beetles tunnel directly into the wood and make their oval feeding galleries in the central part of the log. These galleries are usually filled with a fiberous frass, and sometimes the frass is pushed out holes on the surface (usually of pine logs) and small piles are created. Pine logs in wood piles are often attacked by these beetles, and their presence is indicated by the piles of frass.

These firewood beetles will not infest structural wood and present no threat to timbers indoors. They prefer wood that has a reasonably high moisture content and complete their devleopment in one year. There is no reason to chemically treat wood piles with insecticides to control these insects (and it would probably be ineffective since they are usually beneath the bark!).

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