I'm Buggin' Over Cave Crickets (Rhaphidophoridae)

Halloween is over and as I separate my candy from the razor blades and hypodermic needles, my mind wanders to thoughts of what I'm planning on saying I'm thankful for at Thanksgiving. I usually don't come up with anything that doesn't sound stupid or cheesy, because let's face it, when saying what you're thankful for, to a room full of people, you invariably sound stupid or cheesy no matter what you say. But what if I busted out with, "I am thankful that I got enough razor blades and hypodermic needles in my Halloween candy this year that I don't have to buy any for the entire month of November! CHA CHING!" Yeah, that would be funny. You know what isn't funny though? There's a fucking bug crawling on my head right now! AGHHHHH!!!

Tarantula spider
RIP Morphea, you were a good spider.
Seriously, what is up with me and insects?! Those of you who know me personally can attest to having seen, on one or more occasions, a bug flying directly at my head like a kamikaze pilot. (Wait, would the insect be the pilot or the plane in this case? Whatever, you get the point.) Maybe it's the fact that my personality is so electric that I'm like a human bug zapper without the nasty burnt bug smell aftermath. Maybe it's my long hair which they perceive as decent cover whenever they're trying to escape a bat or whatever. Or maybe it's just a personal vendetta the insect world has against me on account of feeding them to Morphea, my pet tarantula, for all those years.

Whatever it is, I have had more than my fair share of bizarre, creepy and totally over the top encounters with the insect world that defy what anyone would call your average, everyday, normal encounters. Now I'm not squeamish when it comes to the creepy crawlies; in fact, I have a fair amount of admiration when it comes to insects. I actually think they're kind of cool with their highly organized systems of existing, their fascinating ways of problem solving, and their intricate ways of communicating. However, when dealing with insects that are obviously out to get me, I can't help but get a healthy dose of the heebie-jeebies from time to time. It's almost like a long time ago all the insects collectively had a meeting and decided to seriously mess with me more than anyone else, and I am certainly not one to be bullied or attacked without a full scale retaliation. Lately things have been getting a little more ridiculous than usual, so I decided it was time to historically document this ongoing war, just in case I don't make it and the bugs eventually win.

One of my biggest nemeses in the insect world is the cave cricket, something that quite literally crawled its way out from the depths of the underworld. This thing looks like the love child of a typical field cricket and a radioactive mutant mosquito. The end result is something that gives me the willies like no other bug on the planet.

Cave cricket
The Cave Cricket, or in other words, The Enemy!
It all started many years ago when I lived in a basement apartment and unfortunately had my box spring/mattress on the floor. I remember waking up in the middle of the night, frozen in complete horror movie-like terror, as I became aware that something very strange was sitting on my face! I reached up in my sleepy haze and felt this cold, rather large "thing" on my eye—ON MY FUCKING EYE! That is just totally uncalled for and about the most unnerving feeling I have ever had the displeasure of waking up to! I think I would rather wake up to Snooki from Jersey Shore than experience that sheer terror ever again. So me being the 6-foot tall, athletically built man that I am, I proceeded to leap from the bed like a deranged gazelle and shriek like an 8-year-old girl while throwing the vile creature across the room. I quickly turned on the light and all I could make out, as my pupils adjusted to the harsh light, was this thing hopping erratically TOWARDS me! Of course this left me spastically kicking my legs around like a light sensitive epileptic at a Pink Floyd laser show and running away like I was being chased by a T-Rex instead of a not-so-tiny cave cricket.

After that incident, I made it my mission in life to eradicate these things if any of them ever had the nerve to make their presence known to me again. At least maybe then I could try to recapture some of my lost dignity from that night.

As if actually sensing my declaration of cave cricket insecticide, or genocide, or whatever the hell you would call it, they have since launched several waves of physical and psychological assaults on me which I have had to retaliate for in kind. For instance, they shit bombed my barbecue! No joke, they actually shit bombed my grill! You see, to protect it from the elements, my gas grill has a cover on it, something which apparently looks like a giant cave if you're a cave cricket. These things seem to congregate and reproduce en masse, so where there is one there are usually one thousand before long.

All Up In My Grill tshirt
Yo, you don't need to be all up in my grill!
I'll never forget the day that I went outside with a plate full of chicken to fire up my grill for the first time after a long winter, and as I pulled the cover off the grill I was greeted by the horrific and traumatizing site of literally hundreds of these things jumping straight at my head. My neighbors were then treated to the spectacle of me running around the yard flailing and screaming like a retarded banshee. After spaz dancing all the crickets off my body and running into a tree in the process, I went back to the grill armed with the garden hose to find almost all of the culprits had fled (or regrouped) to some darker place unknown to me. There on my fairly new stainless steel grill were huge piles—actual huge piles—of what could only be classified as cricket shit! The stuff was everywhere and looked like really big grains of sand. Even after vacuuming, washing, scrubbing, disinfecting, and heat sterilizing the grill, I still to this day am significantly traumatized by the very thought of cooking on it.

Cave crickets by the hundreds on a wall
This is not a garage band I ever want to see in concert again.
Now of course, I wasn't going to let this assault on my basic infrastructure go unanswered, so I went to Home Depot and bought every kind of insecticide known to man and made a B-line for the garage. If there was any place in my environment that could ever be classified as a cave, it was my garage. I'm not the kind of guy to have an actual "man cave" so the garage is really just a rarely used place to store stuff I don't want in the house, making it the ideal hunting ground for cave cricket headquarters. It is made of cold concrete walls and is usually dark all the time, a perfect staging area for the cave cricket war machine. It was there that I found several platoons of evil cave crickets hiding and congregating by the hundreds. There were large clusters behind the work bench, some behind the shelving units, and others in a large storage nook; basically anywhere there was darkness there were entire divisions of cave crickets. After screaming at the top of my lungs, "LET'S DO THIS! LEEROY JENKINS!!!!!" I ran in there and carpet bombed that garage with so much insecticide that if you now touch the concrete walls you would probably develop full-blown Parkinson's Disease on the spot. So yeah, I sure did hit em' where they live... er... I guess technically where I live. Whatever, "at least I have chicken!"

Gillette Mach 3 razor
A single blade for precision shaving, or random accidental lacerations.
The crickets weren't going to let my full scale chemical warfare attack go unchecked, so in retaliation, one morning in a sleepy haze, I staggered into the shower and pulled the curtain closed while turning on the hot water. There were several ninja crickets on the shower curtain lying in wait, which of course all jumped at my head as soon as the motion and water alerted them to my presence. Now I am a fairly big guy so there isn't a lot of room in my shower after I get in, which means there isn't a lot of room to go running and screaming like a maniac when several crickets surgically assault. As a result, shampoo bottles fell, I suffered several bruises due to hurling myself against the opposite wall to escape the coordinated jumping attack, and of course, the scalding water burned me. I even cut myself on the BACK of my razor which I keep on a shelf in the shower. Damn those razors and their backside, single, precision shaving blades that are poised like a freakin' booby-trap even when the razor is face down!

Tilex Shower Fresh
Definitely less than a 32.33, uh repeating of course, percentage of survival.
Oh but don't worry, I got mine! Did you know that "Tilex Fresh Shower" completely messes with insects on a neurological level? Yeah, I didn't either, but when you're screaming in the shower like the scene from Psycho, you desperately reach for anything to use as a weapon. A few sprays of Tilex Fresh Shower left these bugs twitching and dragging parts of their body around in small circles before finally succumbing to the chelating agent. That stuff works better than most insecticides I've found! Incidentally, now several random parts of my house may or may not smell really shower fresh upon closer inspection.

Now that it's November again and getting significantly colder outside, the cave crickets are starting to seek shelter from the elements. Apparently, this means the lower level of my house since the garage is now a cricket chemical war zone and the shower is a cricket neurological war zone. So the battle continues downstairs on a day to day basis, and things are getting pretty hectic. It probably doesn't help matters that I currently live in a split-level house and they instinctively consider the lower half of the house their territory simply because it is technically part subterranean. However, I have set up my lines of insecticide defense: I am dug in deep armed with my Tilex Fresh Shower and currently standing my ground while regularly removing the casualties. I must say, I am consistently amazed that as soon as I clean up the last round of fallen cricket soldiers they are immediately replaced by the next day's wave of deceased evil minions. I shudder to think how many would be in the house if I wasn't eliminating them as they arrive.

Some might think I am a little over-reactive and ridiculous, and they're probably right, but let me say this: my giant tarantula ate "regular" crickets as her main source of food, but she wouldn't go anywhere near one of these mutant-looking cave crickets when I tried to feed it to her, and I find that very telling. As if that wasn't enough to convince you how disturbingly creepy these things are, maybe this excerpt from their Wikipedia page will convince you.

Wartime
It's on like Donkey Kong!
"Cave crickets have very large hind legs with "drumstick-shaped" femora and long, slender antennae. They are brownish in color and rather humpbacked in appearance, always wingless, and up to two inches/5 cm long in body and 10 cm (4 inches) for the legs. On young crickets the body may appear translucent. ... To avoid starvation, they have been known to devour their own extremities, even though they cannot regenerate limbs. Given their limited vision, cave crickets will often jump towards any perceived threat in an attempt to frighten it away. Their large hind legs allow them to jump high and far. They generally reproduce indoors, especially in situations that provide continuous dark, moist conditions, such as a basement shower or laundry area, as well as organic debris to serve as food."

I don't know about you, but that is NOT something I am willing to cohabitate with and I am certainly not looking to become "organic debris." So as long as they keep invading I will continue to keep killing them indiscriminately. Besides, they fucking started it!


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Wendy Schapiro's picture

The only thing creepier than the bugs in that story, Andrei, is how much of it you spend naked and hopping around. Can I borrow some of your Tilex Fresh Shower to scrub my brain? ;-)

Andrei Trostel's picture

Oh don't even lie Wendy, you know that you want that image forever embedded in your brain. Besides, I'm in a wartime situation here, I'm afraid I can't spare any Tilex Fresh Shower.

Evelyn Liu's picture

The thought of you hopping around in your shower naked in fear of a tiny cricket creature is absolutely comical. Incidentally, I've always loved insects. Of all kinds. And frogs. And giant African snails. But I cannot stand cockroaches, because one time I found one, like you did your cricket, on my EYE while I was sleeping. Disgusting stuff. I empathize with your hatred for awesome giant crickets, sir.

PS. I ALSO HAD A TARANTULA! Called him Norbert.

Andrei Trostel's picture

Wow Evie, that is almost too coincidental!
Like I said, I actually think insects are kind of cool, but this eye attack thing is just diabolical and totally uncalled for. Nice to know though that I am not the only one who has experienced this absolute horror of a wake up call.

What kind of Tarantula did you have? Was it a Chilean Rose Hair also? Male or female?

Evelyn Liu's picture

I had a cobalt blue tarantula, native to our area. Was about nine or ten at the time, so I don't remember too much about it, but I'm pretty sure it was male. Frightened me a tad when he molted. Insects on eye, NOT cool.

Andrei Trostel's picture

Oh those are really cool looking! Morphea (my spider) was a female so she was around for a VERY long time. The life span of a male tarantula is at max a few years, but the females can live over twenty years. Yes, the molting was pretty crazy, as was the devouring of a baby mouse over the period of several days. I only did that once because I just couldn't take the noise that mouse made and how long it took. It still disturbs me that she could do that to a mouse, but just couldn't stomach a cave cricket and actually shied away from them.

Evelyn Liu's picture

... it ATE a RAT? That's just... I don't even know what. I should totally have gotten a female. Twenty years is a long time, I should've gotten a female. Then again, I lost Norbert (and freaked out the entire school) when I unintentionally left the lid to his cage open. And wow, cave crickets are starting to scare ME now. I don't think we get them here, though. Thankfully.

Andrei Trostel's picture

Well not a rat. It was a baby pinkie mouse which of course is MUCH smaller than a rat, but still, it was certainly disturbing and bad-ass all at the same time. I lost Morphea once for an entire day and found her on the ceiling in my dorm room. She was really tame and I let her out often, but that time she decided to go on a bit of a walk about. Yes, I'm not overreacting about these cave crickets, they are freaky! I squashed one once and actually saw red blood. I didn't even think insects had red blood. Maybe it had just eaten someone or something.

Gavin Pitt's picture

Wait a minute... I thought I was the entomologist here!

In Australia (well, actually next door in New Zealand, but work with me here) Cave Crickets are known as Wetas, and are amongst the largest insects in the world- a big one is about the size and weight of a small rat. They're also endangered and protected by law, so your Rhapidophoricide would net you a hefty fine!

note to self: The cricket troops didn't work. Next time, try Assassin Bugs...

Andrei Trostel's picture

An insect the size and weight of a small rat is endangered?! Wow I can't imagine why. Oh, maybe it is because they make it a habit of sitting on a person's fucking eye while the person is sleeping! Good riddance Cave Crickets/Wetas, good riddance indeed, may your passing into extinction be shower fresh!

Evelyn Liu's picture

Whoa, there! Gavin likes creepies, I like creepies, and aside from giant crickets, so do you, Andrei. We'd make a pretty badass team.

Andrei Trostel's picture

What can I say Evie, war is hell and they started it.

Robert King's picture

Pound-for-pound, crickets are the best at teabagging.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/40109803/ns/technology_and_science-science/

Andrei Trostel's picture

It's funny, multiple people sent me that article after I had already submitted this for publishing. I actually considered sending Court a revision with a joke referencing it, but in the end decided it was near to impossible for someone not to post it as a comment.
Thanks for not disappointing Robert. Haha!

Gavin Pitt's picture

Andrei- Wetas are harmless. And they're endangered due to the usual suspects (cats, rats and foxes).

First wasps, now crickets. You really have to work on your bug Karma dude....

Evelyn- A Cobalt Blue Tarantula?! Awesome. They're beautiful, but unpredictable. I worked with one once, and the sign on the cage read "Warning: Prone to sudden and unpredictable acts of psychotic aggression. Handling is not recommended"...

Andrei Trostel's picture

Harmless my ass! Psychological trauma due to squatting on your eye counts as harmful in my book.

My tarantula was totally docile, she never bit anyone and I even put her in the Halloween candy bowl one year just to freak out all the kids that came to the door.

Gavin Pitt's picture

Yes, but yours sounds like it was a Chilean Rose, not a Cobalt Blue. They're happy to let you pat them one minute, and trying to rip your face off the next...

Insect trauma story: I was once stung by a bee. Whilst inside a movie theatre. Halfway during STIR OF ECHOES. On the plus side, it made the movie a lot more scream-intensive...

Andrei Trostel's picture

Yes, mine was a Chilean Rose Hair and they are about as calm as they get. No face ripping of any kind, ever. Well, unless you count the mouse.

Andrei Trostel's picture

Gavin has provided us with an example of one of these Wetas to give you an idea of the sheer horror that are Cave Crickets/Wetas.

http://i299.photobucket.com/albums/mm313/trostela/Weta.jpg

Robert King's picture

Time to fire up the rotisserie. I thought I'd never say this, but that cricket really Weta my appetite.

Andrei Trostel's picture

Haha Nice Robert!
Just don't be all up in my grill with that thing.

Keke DeVille's picture

That thing gave me premature nightmares......

Andrei Trostel's picture

Yeah it's pretty freaky for sure.

there was at least one of those things living in my house over the summer!! the little mofo blended in very nicely with the floor...

Andrei Trostel's picture

I would love to have just one! One I could handle...Ten a day...not so much.

Come back next summer and I'll definitely have...
Less than three Maria!
;)

Keke DeVille's picture

No worries Andrei. The rules of manliness go out the door when faced with the prospect of doom....or just being plain creeped out.

If you ever come across a land crab you have free reign to scream, jump, skip,....cry...I do. It helps to add a few inches or feet to the size of the creepy thing each time you tell the story though. This summer I ran from a crab the size of.....a T-rex. .........True story.

Andrei Trostel's picture

Haha Thanks Keke, I'm glad the rules of manliness don't apply here, though even if they did, I am secure enough in my masculinity to still freak the fuck out with a giant bug on my eye.
;)

Glad I'm not the only one, Andrei! Thanks for the tip on the Tilex. I've found them in my laundry room, bathroom and one cricket one time on my FUCKING BED. I'm absolutely certain it was payback because I got rid of a huge colony of them I found in the laundry room closet the day before. I'm not a girl that gets scared of bugs, but these things are fucking evil.

Andrei Trostel's picture

Anytime Erin,
I must say that the Tilex is definitely a little more enjoyable than it probably should be. Watching these things twitch around spastically is kind of cathartic. Of course it could just be because they have made me do it more than once while trying to get away from them when they jump at at me.

The descriptions of your phobic antics are beautifully vivid -

"leap from the bed like a deranged gazelle and shriek like an 8-year-old girl while throwing the vile creature across the room."

"spastically kicking my legs around like a light sensitive epileptic at a Pink Floyd laser show and running away like I was being chased by a T-Rex instead of a not-so-tiny cave cricket"

"running around the yard flailing and screaming like a retarded banshee"

"spaz dancing all the crickets off my body"

I am not merely arachnophobic, but TERRIFIED ABSOLUTELY SHITLESS of spiders, and I have done things like this many, many times, unfortunately.

You, Mr. Trostel, are my hero! But do yourself a favor and look up and make a pet of the cave cricket's mortal enemy.

Andrei Trostel's picture

Thank you for your very kind words, although I think you missed a key element to the piece...

I now AM the cave cricket's mortal enemy!
Dun Dun Dun! <-(that was suspenseful music in case you missed it).

HAHA!
;)

Uh, well, I meant a pet that would actually eat these creepy little bastards. I don't think you want to fire up your grill and make them a side dish.

So, perhaps you should make a pet of the dastardly cave cricket's SECOND most dire nemesis, and make sure it has a healthy appetite for the damned things.

Andrei Trostel's picture

Well it would save me the time of having to clean them out of my grill if they ever try that invasion tactic again. I'm all about time efficiency.

However, you are onto something here. A war beasts that devours them which perhaps I could ride into battle. It would have to be large enough to not only carry me, but also so that I could strap a boom box and speakers to in order to play Ride of the Valkyries really loud.

It would also have to enjoy smelling shower fresh all the time.

Robert King's picture

You should invest in a flag too. Throughout history, nothing has come to symbolize a brooding war over territory like planting one's flag into the ground.

Andrei Trostel's picture

Robert, I appreciate what you are saying here, but I am dealing with a whole other level of non-awareness. For instance, if it were me and I entered into a place littered with human carcasses, I would simply say, "FUCK THIS" and leave. Yet oddly enough this doesn't present a significant deterrent to the cave cricket war machine which honestly just makes these things even MORE disturbing to me. Something tells me they wouldn't respect a planted flag symbolizing my claim of territorial rights and I would just be wasting my time which could be better spent "Tilexing" (yes, it's a verb now) every nook and cranny of my house.

I came across your article through google image search because that GIANT cricket in the hand in that link you posted. These crickets have also tormented me when I used to live in my parents house. The crickets EAT their dead, so if you kill one, it actually attracts more crickets to the same place! Get some Diatomaceous Earth and pour it everywhere that will kill them. I guess pour some wherever they come into your house from to keep them out.

Andrei Trostel's picture

Thanks for the tip, B Prime, but I'm not sure if turning my whole house into a giant liter box is a very practical solution. I'll keep it in mind though and file it just above "torch the fucking place." Oh and not for nothing, but if I knew where they were coming into my house I would have already installed blast doors over the hole, not unlike the kind on the back door of the shield generator in Return of the Jedi. I'm not talking about just that first set, but also that second set that Han Solo accidentally hot wires shut.

;)

you are an idiot

Brilliant!

Andrei Trostel's picture

HAHA! Yet you are the one who thinks that replying from a different computer at the same location somehow hides the fact that you are the same person. I guess that's government work for you. Try and have a Happy Thanksgiving.
;)

Zombie Bunny's picture

I just had a experience with one of the little monsters launching an attack on me in at dark hallway in the middle of the night. Having lived through this traumatizing incident I can say with confidence that screaming/running/flailing arms and legs is the best course of action when facing a spricket... also that Windex works just as well as Tilex.

Andrei Trostel's picture

I feel your trauma, Zombie Bunny, I really do. I prefer Tilex to Windex because Tilex is clear, while Windex tends to leave blue shit on some things and not others. I can't quite figure out what makes the blue stick around on only certain things, but I've never liked the idea of my house looking like Smurfs have randomly exploded in certain areas.

On a completely separate note I really like the handle "Zombie Bunny" which provides just the right amount of a dark edgy disturbing feel with adorable cute innocent imagery. It implies an aggressive killer style lying within a timid and shy persona.

It's a really nice dichotomy.

I'm literally sitting in bed as we speak just having been raped but one again. This is the fifth time. This time I woke up to the bastard crawling around on my back. I threw it onthe ground and slammed it with a book leaving it twitching on the ground. And you know what happened when I finished reading this article? I looked down and he was fucking gone..... No where to be found. Ive had them wake me up crawling around on my face 3 times already and am about to go insane.

Andrei Trostel's picture

Yeah, it is that time of year again when the temperature starts dropping and these little bastards start mobilizing. I totally feel your pain. Having watched countless horror movies I can tell you that you should NEVER leave anything twitching on the ground while you feel relieved at being victorious. Set it on fire. Cut its fucking head off. Shoot it five more times in vital organs, just in case. There is no such thing as overkill when it comes to something horrible and grotesque. The nightmarish monster that has invaded your home and tried to terrorize you can never get MORE dead...but it can come back to life.

Hang in there, good luck and thanks for reading/commenting.

By one again*

Andrei Trostel's picture

Honestly you could have typed in complete gibberish and I would have totally understood, given what you have just endured. ;)

Shadow's picture

Ick! I just saw this article about the heaviest weta. http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/01/9150501-worlds-biggest-b...
He held it and fed it a carrot?! I am so grateful the ones in my area are a smaller species. It is pretty contentious whether vegetarians can or can't eat insects, but most people can come to a consensus of cannibalism. Cave crickets will eat their own limbs and as I've seen other cave crickets when they are starving. Plus, I've seen red blood in them, where did that come from? I don't think they are vegetarians.

Andrei Trostel's picture

YES! Certainly if you are eating your own limbs or others of your own species you could hardly be classified as a vegetarian!

Thank you so much for posting that article. It's funny because I had just seen a similar one posted on Gavin's Facebook wall.

http://gizmodo.com/5864195/the-worlds-biggest-insect-is-so-freaking-huge...

I particularly agree with the line in that article of, "BE AFRAID LITTLE HUMANS."

;)

I used to live in a basement apartment that was infested (and I mean infested!) with these nasty little things. they are absolutely disgusting!!!! I had a pitbull at the time and he was petrified of them. He would literally yelp and run and they had a nasty habit of chasing him which freaked him out even more. It was comical until they started chasing me... then I moved. They were way too much and damn near impossible to kill!

Andrei Trostel's picture

I feel your pain, truly I do.

Tilex Fresh Shower is the ticket and it's a little more than satisfying watching those little fuckers twitch, jerk and spaz as it messes up their nervous system.