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Asian Camel Crickets Invading US Homes

Sep 02, 2014 11:13 AM EDT

Asian camel crickets with a voracious appetite for just about anything - including each other - have now invaded homes across the eastern United States, researchers report.

The non-native cricket species, known as the greenhouse camel cricket (Diestrammena asynamora), is described in the journal PeerJ.

"The good news is that camel crickets don't bite or pose any kind of threat to humans," Dr. Mary Jane Epps, a postdoctoral researcher at North Carolina (NC) State University and lead author of the study, said in a statement.

Epps was inspired to study the cricket after a colleague had a chance encounter with one at home. The cricket was thought to be prevalent only in its native Asia as well as in certain US commercial greenhouses - hence its name - but new research says otherwise.

Epps and her team conducted a public survey and discovered that, surprisingly, the cannibalistic cricket can be found in and near homes east of the Mississippi.

"We don't know what kind of impact this species has on local ecosystems though it's possible that the greenhouse camel cricket could be driving out native camel cricket species in homes," Epps said.

The research team also sampled the yards of 10 homes in Raleigh, N.C. They found large numbers of greenhouse camel crickets, with higher numbers in the areas of the yards closest to homes.

Their research ended up dealing them a second surprise as well - the possibility of yet another unusual cricket.

"There appears to be a second Asian species, Diestrammena japanica, that hasn't been formally reported in the US before, but seems to be showing up in homes in the Northeast," Epps explained. "However, that species has only been identified based on photos. We'd love to get a physical specimen to determine whether it is D. japanica."

Though your initial reaction may be to cringe at the sight of this long, spiky-legged insect, researchers point out that homeowners shouldn't panic if they find one in their home. In fact, this species is rather useful around the house.

"Because they are scavengers, camel crickets may actually provide an important service in our basements or garages, eating the dead stuff that accumulates there," noted co-author Holly Menninger, director of public science in the Your Wild Life lab at NC State.

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