Fall is the bountiful time of year. The farmers markets have had lots and lots of produce coming to town, the lawn mowers have had plenty of grass to mow, and it seems to be another great year for cricket production. Field crickets are one of the most common household accidental invader insect pests. There are several species of field crickets ranging in size from 1/4 to 3/4 inch, but the most notorious is the black field cricket, a large, shiny black insect. Like other accidental invaders, field crickets spend most of their life outdoors where they feed, grow, develop, and reproduce. Only during a limited portion of their life cycle do they wander indoors by mistake and create an annoyance with their chirping.
Chirping is done only by the male crickets by rubbing their wings together as a way to attract the females of their own species. Have you ever noticed that a chirping cricket hiding somewhere in the house stops chirping when you walk near it? How did it get on the second floor of the house? How did it get into a closed desk drawer? How can we get rid of these chirping pests?
There is no single, perfect solution for the control of crickets found in the house. Often some combination of the following suggestions will work. Ultimately, cricket problems end in the fall when the adults are killed by a heavy frost or freeze.
* Seal cracks and holes in foundations, siding, windows, doors, screens, and other possible entry points. Remove vegetation and debris from next to the house that serves as a hiding place.
* Reduce the number of pests at the source if possible. Sprays generally used in lawns, fencerows and other cricket habitats include Sevin, malathion, and Orthene. Spraying in midsummer when crickets are small is more effective than late summer applications.
* Use barrier perimeter sprays such as malathion or Sevin on and along the foundation to stop migrating invaders. In years of abundance, the barrier should extend all the way to the fencerow, ditch bank or other identifiable habitat for crickets. Use insecticides according to their label directions, and repeat as needed.
* Clean up boxes, papers, and other objects in the house to minimize potential hiding places.
* For invaders already inside the house, vacuum or sweep them up and discard.
Indoor residual treatments with "cockroach" sprays have little, if any, benefit. Do not use lawn and garden insecticide concentrates indoors. Direct application with indoor-approved aerosols is one way besides the fly swatter or rolled up newspaper to eliminate crickets that are inside the house.
Lastly, I know there are some folks that swear by the use of hedge apples, the fruit of the Osage-orange tree, for insect control in the home. Placement of hedge apples around the foundation or inside the basement is claimed to provide relief from crickets, cockroaches, spiders, boxelder bugs, and other pests. There are plenty of testimonials claiming success. However, there is an absence of scientific research and therefore no valid evidence to confirm the claims of effectiveness. However, if you use hedge apples in your home for insect control and they work for you, continue to use them. Because Iowa State University provides only research-based information and there is no research to back this claim, ISU Extension can't recommend the use of hedge apples for home pest control.