One of the invaders is the Asian camel cricket, and new research shows it has become increasingly common in U.S. homes. Asian camel crickets have long legs that are colored like desert camouflage. And because they eat almost anything, including each other, they're ideal conquerers.
Researchers at North Carolina State University knew camel crickets were present in the U.S., but they wanted to know to what extent, and which species were most prevalent. To find out, they asked for the help of average Americans. Volunteers responded the cricket census by confirming the presence of camel crickets with photo evidence.
As it turns out, 90 precent of respondents reported the presence of the greenhouse camel cricket (Diestrammena asynamora), a native of Asia that used to be most associated with greenhouses. Apparently, Asian camel crickets have abandoned the sun of the greenhouse for the darkness of the basement and garage.
While researchers were surprised at how common they've become, they say homeowners who find themselves playing host to these critters have no need to worry.
But while they have no immediate impact on their human housemates, scientists aren't exactly sure how they might impact the ecosystem around them. "We know remarkably little about these camel crickets, such as their biology or how they interact with other species," explained co-author Holly Menninger. "We're interested in continuing to study them, and there's a lot to learn."
"Because they are scavengers, camel crickets may actually provide an important service in our basements or garages, eating the dead stuff that accumulates there," Menninger added.
The work of Epps and Menninger was published in the journal PeerJ this week.