Cave cricket (Family Rhaphidophoridae)
DON’T PANIC: They’re totally harmless.
Apparently this week’s crawly needs that big old caveat up front in all caps; they seem to be pretty famous – or infamous?
Web MD has an entire page dedicated to this week’s crawly. To sum up: Harmless. But if Web MD has an entire page, I’ll suss many people think maybe this week’s crawly is not harmless.
Let’s get to the formal introduction, then we can ponder the undeserved bad reputation of the cave cricket (Family Rhaphidophoridae).
What’s in a name? In the case of our poor, misunderstood cave crickets – a lot. These nifty Orthoptera have been hit with some of the most unfortunate common names ever.
Like, the equivalent of a person getting the nickname “Stinky McStinkerson” or, heck, more like “Axy McAxmurderer.”
One of the cave cricket’s most well-known monikers is “camel cricket.” This comes from their curved or “humped” appearance. Seems like an OK nickname, but – it probably is easily confused with “camel spider” (Solifugae) crawlies which seem to universally creep folks out.
For the record, solifugae found in Oregon are also non-venomous and harmless to humans. But that’s a whole other Crawlies.
But wait! There’s more! Cave crickets are also called “spider crickets” by some. As if “camel cricket” wasn’t bad enough. These poor critters can’t get a break.
Another possible reason people may panic at the thought of a cave cricket is perceived size. They do have loooong legs, but the native species found here in Oregon max out at just barely over one-half inch in body size.
However, there is a non-native species found on the East Coast that is twice the size of our little crickets and tall tales of “giant” cave crickets aren’t doing our crickets any favors.
All in all cave crickets are beneficial critters. They need a cool, damp environment and can be found in caves, old mines, rotten logs, stumps and hollow trees, and under damp leaves, stones, boards and logs. Sometimes they’ll take up residence in basements (especially on the East Coast), or in the case of our pictured cricket, my bathroom sink.
If a large group took up residence in a basement, they could be considered a pest insect. That said, I’ve seen exactly seven of them and I’m looking all the time.
You may have guessed their diet based on their housing choices. They eat detritus, leaf litter, fungi, insects and other small arthropods. They’re just one of nature’s many “cleanup crew” members helping to enrich our soils.
Females need soil for egg laying. The eggs are laid and hatch in spring, then the young crickets overwinter as nymphs maturing the following year. Cave crickets can live up to two years in the wild.
While they are totally harmless (they can’t even bite a human), cave crickets can jump a considerable distance if startled – which might just startle you back. However, they are nocturnal, so only active at night. Any you spot in the daytime are probably lost, looking for a nice damp log and/or snoozing.
If you’re lucky enough to find one indoors (crickets in the house are good luck), cup ‘n paper them (be careful to get their looong antennae fully in the cup!) and take them out to a cool, damp, protected spot in your yard and everyone wins.