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A spider cricket is a creepy pest many people would rush to call the pet control company to come out and exterminate. They are a literally "in your face" bug that can bite and spread disease.

Sometimes in fall or winter you'll find a writhing mass of strange-looking bugs lurking under a cabinet or in your business. Looking something like a shrimp with long legs, spider crickets jump directly at what frightens them when they are startled. If you bend over to inspect the bugs that will shortly renew your interest in home pest control, you'll get a face full of bugs.

It's not a pleasant experience.

Also known as cave crickets, camel crickets (due to their beige exoskeleton), sprickets, and mutant spiders, spider crickets like to forage together. They have long, drumstick-like legs, just six, since they aren't actually spiders. They have long antennae that help them navigate in the dark. Males of the species have spikes on their legs that help them secure the attention of an unwilling female when they want to mate. The males' legs secrete a pheromone that attracts masses of females long after they leave the scene. Females of the species appear to have a "stinger," but they don't actually sting. The long appendage on the female's hind end is an ovipositor, a tube for laying eggs.

When spider crickets find a food source, they congregate by the hundreds. Normally dining on mold, fungus, paper, or decaying leaves and plant matter, they are also capable of taking a painful bite out of human skin (although pet shop owners who sell them and insect enthusiasts are more likely to describe the bite as an "annoyance").

No one is going to lie down for a nap in a house infested with spider crickets only to be discovered as a skeleton picked clean the next day. However, spider crickets can harbor parasites known as nematodes. Cricket enthusiasts correctly point out that the creepy insects carry the parasitic nematode Pterygodermatites peromysci that they spread from mouse feces back to the next mouse that eats them, and that this parasite does not harm humans (so the crickets must be harmless, right?). However, what isn't reported in many places is that they can also carry a parasite called Hymenolepis nana. It's not a common infection, by any means, but it can cause diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite, and a very itchy anus. This nematode can be spread from cricket to human during its bite, which is also, well, kind of gross.

A memorable if somewhat crude way of explaining spider cricket bites is that these bugs have mandibles that they use for eating fungus and moldy paper. The appendages aren't really "teeth." Under a magnifying glass, they look something like crab claws.  However, the spider cricket also has "pinchers" around its anus. Not only can this insect bite you on the ass, it can bite you with its ass. This increases the likelihood you will get a nematode infection from contact with the bug.

The people most at risk for this kind of infection are the very young and the very old. People who can't move when they feel an insect bite are the most likely to suffer multiple bites.

Continue reading after recommendations

  • Epps MJ, Menninger HL, LaSala N, and Dunn RR. 2014. Too big to be noticed: Cryptic invasion of Asian camel crickets in North American houses. PeerJ 2: e523
  • DOI 10.7717/peerj.523.
  • Yoder JA, Christensen BS, Croxall TJ, Tank JL, Hobbs HH 3rd. The pheromone of the cave cricket, Hadenoecus cumberlandicus, causes cricket aggregation but does not attract the co-distributed predatory spider, Meta ovalis. J Insect Sci. 2010
  • 10:47. doi: 10.1673/031.010.4701. PMID: 20572786.
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