New cricket spreading in NC, NC State researchers say - WJBF-TV ABC 6 Augusta-Aiken

New cricket spreading in NC, NC State researchers say

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

Researchers from N.C. State University have found that non-native camel cricket species have spread into homes across the eastern United States.

"The good news is that camel crickets don't bite or pose any kind of threat to humans," said Mary Jane Epps, a postdoctoral researcher at NC State and lead author of a paper about the research.

The research stems from a chance encounter, State said, when a cricket taxonomist found a cricket in the home of one of the N.C. State researchers.

The researchers then asked the public whether they had camel crickets (also known as cave crickets) in their homes and, if so, to send in photos or mail in physical specimens. The responses they got were surprising.

The most common species reported, by more than 90 percent of respondents, was the greenhouse camel cricket. Native to Asia, N.C. State said species was first sighted in the U.S. in the 19th century - but it was thought to be rare outside of commercial greenhouses.

Instead, the researchers found that it is now far more common than native camel crickets in and near homes east of the Mississippi, according to an N.C. State news release.

"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 researchers sampled the yards of 10 homes in Raleigh and found large numbers of greenhouse camel crickets. The higher numbers were found in the areas of the yards closest to homes.

The photos submitted by the public turned up a second surprise as well.

"There appears to be a second Asian species, Diestrammena japanica, that hasn't been formally reported in the U.S. before, but seems to be showing up in homes in the Northeast," Epps said. "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."

The researchers stress that homeowners shouldn't panic if they find camel crickets in their homes.

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

"We know remarkably little about these camel crickets, such as their biology or how they interact with other species," Menninger said. "We're interested in continuing to study them, and there's a lot to learn."

Copyright 2014 WNCN. All rights reserved.

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