The warm summer nights bring with it the sounds of crickets chirping. To some people, those chirps are welcomed, but to others they’re downright frustrating.
If you’re a gardener with a vegetable patch, you have no choice but to figure out how to get rid of crickets in the garden, because these insects are polyphagous and will devour your crops.
What Crickets Eat and How Much Damage They Can Inflict in Your Garden
Crickets are much like grasshoppers, only bigger. Both are herbivores, but crickets are omnivorous too, meaning they will eat fruit, vegetables, seeds, insects, animal feces, and garden plants.
Given that crickets have stronger jaws and teeth, they’ll eat more parts of plants than a grasshopper can. Mole crickets are the most damaging because of their extreme tunneling behavior as these have strong enough jaws to pull smaller plants underground.
The good news is that it doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to figure out how to get rid of crickets or grasshoppers in your garden, because the same techniques apply to both insects. They eat and detest the same things.
A list of common plants crickets like to feed on:
- Potatoes (including sweet potato)
- Tomato plants
In addition to the above fruits and veggies, crickets are attracted to some flowers too. Those include coleus, gypsophila, and chrysanthemum.
Grasses that are particularly prone to mole crickets include Bahia grass, Bermuda grass, and St. Augustine grasses.
Plants That Deter Crickets
Deterring crickets from your garden can be done by planting some strong scented plants. It’s not so much the texture they dislike, but more the scent they detest.
Plants in this category are mostly spices such as garlic, cinnamon, and hot chili powder so for vegetable gardens, these types of plants could be planted to prevent crickets from eating your vegetables.
Why Get Rid of Crickets in the Garden Without Killing them
When possible, don’t aim to kill crickets because they aren’t exactly a garden pest. Sure, they’re destructive to plants, but they aren’t to the soil.
Here’s how crickets can be beneficial:
- Crickets love to feast on weed seeds so they will help with weed predation. In a lab-controlled study by Michigan State University, they learned that one female cricket managed to eat through 223 pigweed seeds in 24 hours. That’s because they need to eat the equivalent of their bodyweight daily. The bigger the cricket, the more it needs to eat.
- Crickets also chew on organic matter in your garden, which helps turn it into the ‘gardeners gold’ humus – the result of decomposition so crickets chewing on your dead or dying plant foliage helps speed up decomposition, getting you the ultra-rich humus faster than it’d take without crickets around.
- What goes in must come out and that’s where the real magic happens. So much so that Cricketpoo is a commercial fertilizer that has an NPK of 4-3-2. That’s nitrogen-rich and something to take note of because you can take better advantage of that by planting nitrogen-fixing plants to further enrich your soil. It’ll save money on fertilizers too.
There is one other super important reason to control the cricket population in your garden and that’s because they can migrate indoors, especially the females as those crickets prefer to overwinter indoors where it’s warmer and the perfect environment for them to lay their eggs.
Take Control of the Cricket Population in Your Backyard
For gardeners with a vegetable patch, the most important aspect of cricket control is to keep them as far away from your produce as you can manage. One of the ways you can do that is by growing plants that are more preferable to crickets as far away from your crops as possible. Trap plants!
The most preferred type of plant for crickets are those in the legume family as those are nitrogen-fixing plants. These plants irritate crickets and one of the most ignored is clover on the lawn, although any plant that’s part of the legume family will serve the same purpose.
6 Tips on How to Get Rid of Crickets in Your Garden
1 – Keep your Garden Tidy
The habitat crickets seek isn’t just where there’s food to forage. It’s finding suitable areas where they can hide during the day and come out at night without fear of being snatched by predators.
Those areas are likely all over your garden. Under rocks, piles of pavers, firewood stored outdoors, and of course, the compost pile that’s attractive to most insects.
If you have pavers or firewood that needs to be stored in your garden, keep them stored away from flowers and plants that crickets are likely to eat.
You don’t want to make it easy for them to shelter and find food. Make them work for their food.
2 – Use Biological Control
Biological control is when you introduce an insect’s enemy into the habitat of the insect that you’re having a hard time controlling the population of. Biocontrol for crickets is best done above ground, rather than introducing beneficial nematodes which would do the work below ground.
One of the most effective ways (albeit slow) is to use plants that attract the Larra Wasp, which has earned itself the nickname of – The Cricket Hunter!
Only two plants accomplish that goal. The Partridge pea (Chamaechrista fasciculata) and false buttonweed (Spermacoce verticillata). There are others that are rich nectar sources, but those two specifically are favored by the female wasp, and those are the ones you need.
Males will feed on the nectar, but the females eat nectar and don’t harm the plant. When they’re done, they then hunt for mole crickets to lay their eggs.
A female Larra wasp will venture around 200 yards from food sources to hunt out mole crickets, and they’ll go into cricket tunnels to catch them. Once caught, they lay an egg on it.
Within a few days, a wasp grub hatches that feeds on the juices of the cricket for 10 days, (eventually killing it) then makes a cocoon where it becomes pupa, living underground for roughly 6 weeks before emerging as an adult. When it does emerge, the cycle repeats.
3 – Reduce Light Outdoors
Despite crickets being nocturnal, they are attracted to bright light. If you have floodlights, or security lights that are constantly coming on, or perhaps you’ve installed fairy lights across a gazebo in your backyard, you’ll have an attractive environment for crickets.
Turn the lights off. The less light there is, the less cricket activity you’ll have.
A study by Wiley based on the Australian black field cricket found that even low levels of artificial light at night has an impact on a cricket’s autoimmune system, and even the size it grows to.
Brighter light helps them grow and stay healthy, which is likely why they flock to bright light at night, whether that’s lights in your yard, or you’ve left a window ajar with the light on inside, in which case, they’re likely to migrate indoors.
If you absolutely can’t do without your porch or patio lights, consider switching the type of bulb you use to a heatless amber bug bulb that won’t attract insects.
4 – Clean Your Gutters
Whenever there’s a pest problem in the garden, the obvious thing to do is ground maintenance. For crickets and other potential insect pests, the real culprit could be accumulated debris in your gutters such as dead leaves from overhanging trees and other organic material that collects there.
The debris and moist atmosphere in gutters make it an ideal nesting area for crickets. Homeowner advice is to clean your gutters twice per year. Once in the spring, again in the fall.
If you can only do it once though, make it the spring because cricket populations start to soar when the temperatures begin to rise. Later in the year, crickets are more likely to try to migrate indoors or nest under pavers and anywhere else they can find warmth and shelter.
5 – Make Your Garden Highly Attractive to Bluebirds
It’s no secret that birds eat insects, but did you know that a bluebird’s diet is 68% insects, and 32% berries? One of their favorite snacks is mealworm and you can get bluebird feeders specifically for bluebirds that have smaller holes to prevent bigger birds and other wildlife like racoons and squirrels from stealing it, and with an integrated mealworm dish.
If you have the space for shrubs in your garden, some of the plants that bluebirds are attracted to are elderberry, blueberry, and bayberry shrubs.
6 – Inspect Your Lawn for Mole Cricket Tunnels
Mole cricket tunnels can be tricky to identify because they can look similar to worm mounds. Signs of mole cricket damage on your lawn are small brown mounds on the lawn surface and patches of grass that have turned brown due to tunneling damage.
Mole crickets can burrow up to 30” deep and established tunnels can stretch as far as 20 ft long. If you suspect there are crickets present, you can do a soil flush test by mixing a gallon of water with some dish soap and pour it onto the lawn around any brown patches you suspect crickets are present.
Push down into the soil with your finger or a screwdriver to open the chamber up then flood it with the soapy water. Any crickets that are present will need to surface or they’ll drown. When they do, you can remove them by hand.