New Tenant in a Basement Apartment – Help, I have Asian Camel Crickets!


“Dear PoPville,

I just recently moved into a basement apartment. I moved in slowly while exiting my previous apartment and noticed what I thought at the time were grasshoppers. Turns out they are the Asian Camel Crickets that are invading the Northeast. They were pretty large and there were about 3 that I can remember in different parts of the one bedroom apartment. I notified my landlord and she said its a seasonal thing and they are all over the neighborhood and offered to get home defense spray for the interior perimeter of the the basement. I said I would try it and see how it goes. I also contacted a pest control company that did free home inspection, however, they said they would need the landlord’s permission before they came out to inspect. In the meantime, by now I have completely moved in and I decided to unpack so they had less places to hide. With every box I moved I found more and more, but the end of the week I had killed at least 20 and started documenting with my camera!

Now, I’m paranoid, afraid and walking around my apartment with my boom. When I found three under my bed I was fed up and asked my landlord to do something again. I decided to stay with a friend since I couldn’t sleep comfortably. She responded with the suggestion of getting a stronger spray. At this point, I realize this issue is more than likely not going to go away with spray and not the place for me. I asked if I could find her a new tenant to replace me, she said no, that I can’t sublease, and that she wouldn’t want to start over again.

So I started to do some research to figure out how I can get out of this sticky situation. I’ve called around and spoke to some co-workers and have come to a few conclusions.

1, She is renting the basement out illegally and doesn’t want a home inspection.
2. She will sue me if I decide to leave without completely the 12-month lease.
3. She is too lazy to start the process again and hopes I will just stop complaining until it gets cold and the crickets go away.

Either way at this point I am fed up and just want to find a new place to live….help! What are my options?”

74 Comment

    • +1 OTA is amazing! This sounds like my hellish year living in a basement apartment with a terrible land lady. All of these things happened to me, so I feel your pain! Good luck!

  • Rather than ask her to “do something,” ask her to pay for an exterminator.

    • Or buy yourself a can of RAID.

      • I once lived in a basement with these monsters. Raid didn’t kill them. They’re so huge you’d have to empty practically a whole can per cricket. I dropped textbooks on them and even that didn’t always kill them.

    • Agreed. Although she really should be doing something on her own, I wonder if she would be more responsive if you said something like “I’ve gotten estimates from these 5 exterminators and XX exterminator is the most affordable and reliable-seeming option. If I hire them for the job, can I deduct the cost from my next month’s rent?” That way, she basically doesn’t have to lift a finger.

  • Camel crickets suck. 100% you are allowed to sublease your place. I’d holler at the governing body that oversees Tenant’s rights/regulations.

  • We had these in my basement apartment, they were coming in under the front door. I bought a rubber strip that sat on the bottom and it solved the problem. Occasionally they would hop in while I was coming in an out. They are spastic jumpers. Raid Bug Barrier kills them.

    Can you tell where they are coming in?

  • I had some in my unfinished basement, and they leave large packets of feces on everything. So it’s not a bug phobia thing, co-habiting with them in living space really doesn’t sound like a good plan.
    Maybe offer her an either/or — you’ll find a new renter or you’ll ask the city for an inspection. If she is renting out illegally, then having a new tenant may be more appealing to her than inviting the city in.

    • “The good news is that camel crickets don’t bite or pose any kind of threat to humans,” says Dr. Mary Jane Epps, a postdoctoral researcher at NC State

      • But they will ruin everything you own. Their poop is like cement and they eat paper and cloth (including synthetics).

        • Not to mention just extremely unpleasant to be around. I had a cricket infestation back when I lived in Texas, and there’s nothing like having them fall out of your light fixtures onto you and your food everywhere you go.

        • OMG Allison that is like a scene out of my nightmares. They fell ON you?? I am usually not a wussy about bugs, but I cannot deal with these crickets. I just cannot. In fact I think I’m done with this thread, just reading about these things gives me the willies.

        • Yeah, sometimes I think the little buggers did it on purpose. They would wait for me to walk by and then PHWEEEEEE! pounce. I’d still prefer crickets over cockroaches any day, however.

  • laduvet

    It is a seasonal thing – they will go away! But whats concerning is… if they can get in… other things can get in. Get an exterminator and see if some sealant needs to applied around the baseboards and flooring. Additionally, its a basement unit… its common for animals to try to come inside – sorry!

  • How will she sue you if it is an illegal unit in the first place?

  • GiantSquid

    Try spreading diatomaceous earth or boric acid along all of the baseboards and other surfaces. My friend is using it to keep roaches at bay.

    • +1

      diatomaceous earth works like a dream, is inexpensive and it is nontoxic to humans and pets. i credit it with eliminating our bed bug infestation.

    • In a pinch, powdered laundry detergent also makes a great bug killer for crickets.

    • binpetworth

      Where have you found this in DC? I’ve tried looking at various hardware store to help with my silverfish problem and not found it anywhere.

    • burritosinstereo

      Dang, I had no idea! I have a very mild roach problem – I see one or two every couple of weeks in the summer – but I know that means there are more somewhere so I find it pretty disconcerting. Just bought some boric acid for $7 on amazon and the reviews are all really positive. thank you!

  • Ugh these crickets are all over my basement and also find their way up into the kitchen. They give me the heebie jeebies. Every time I try and smash one with a shoe they jump at me like frogs. They do tend to disappear in the winter though, but they will return in the spring and summer. Definitely ask your landlord to pay for an exterminator. In the meantime, go to the hardware store and buy those insect glue traps and put them down where you see a lot of them. If one get stuck in the trap, others will try to eat it, and they will also get stuck. Try to see where they are coming in from and seal up the gaps. Good luck and I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

  • OK, I’m no lawyer, but I do own a house with a (legally) rented basement, and so based on what I do know, I would think, if you’ve determined that she’s renting to you illegally (like, no Certificate of Occupancy?), I think the chances that she would sue you if you break the lease are very low. I think the fines for illegally renting out a basement are pretty steep, so I think if she’s loathe to bring anyone in for an inspection, she’s going to be doubly loathe to get the city involved in a court case… You could ask the Office of the Tenant Advocate what your options are: (Also, if you look at their Tenant Survival Guide, it does say “Insects: Insects such as roaches, ants, water bugs, etc. are prohibited.” I mean, there will be bugs in any apartment, obviously, but if she’s threatening to sue her, you can threaten right back: A) this apt is illegal, and B) it violates my tenants rights with its nasty nasty bugs.)

  • If you otherwise like the apartment, ask her to pay for a professionally licensed exterminator (i.e. not her brother or local hack handyman). Also ask her to pay to get the apartment properly sealed (i.e. fill cracks in walls, seal under the doors, etc.)
    If she balks at this simple maintenance, tell her you will go to the Tenant Advocate’s Office and report her illegal apartment. She’s also responsible for ensuring that the apartment is habitable. An untreated bug or rodent infestation is a violation of landlord-tenant law.

  • If you can document the feces they’re leaving, then it becomes a legal issue of disease and you might be able to break lease for unfit living conditions. If you can prove they were there before you moved in, then it’s legally the landlord’s issue if you reported it within the number of weeks stated on the lease. (My DC apartments have always told me on the lease I have # of weeks to report anything I find upon moving in that they need to fix.)

    I had these at a house in DC — one of those exterminator grade sticky plastic pads caught almost all of them. (But it was AWFUL to see.)

  • Man, so many harsh responses!

    OP–if she is renting out the space to you illegally, then I don’t see how she can get away with suing you over breaking the lease? I would want to resolve the matter before I moved out, so perhaps suggest a month and half notice as a gesture of good will and note that this is more than fair since it is not a legal rental unit anyway.


    Document the issue, send letter to landlord via certified mail. If that doesn’t do the trick contact the Housing Inspection Section of the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, 941 North Capitol Street NE, Room 7100, Washington, D.C. 20002, (202) 442-4400.

  • Didn’t the landlord offer some type of treatment and you turned her down? Sounds like what she offered is a reasonable first step. You should try that.

    In response to the illegal renting, it may not be as illegal as you think. Renting a basement apartment can be legal without a CoO as long as the lease is written a certain way and other requirements are met. For instance, the lease could treat you as a roommate (similar to group house setup) and just define what areas of the house are shared and not shared. Not having a CoO doesn’t necessarily mean that the act of living in or renting out the basement is illegal.

    • Actually, that’s not true. After DC Council revised the regs two or so years ago, even renting out a single *room* requires a CofO, license, etc. Yes, this sounds crazy, but it’s accurate.

  • I had these in the basement apartment I lived in for years until I got my dog. She wiped out the population in less than 2 weeks- she would spend all day waiting to pounce on them and would occasionally catch a few at night. I haven’t seen any in two years – want to borrow my dog?

  • I have three words for you:

    cricket. fried. rice.

  • Get a two-liter of pop. Cut off the top and reverse it to create a funnel. Put a ton of sugar in the bottom with some water.

    They will jump instead to get the sugar but can’t get out.

    Repeat the process until you have no bugs.

  • janie4

    Was the home defense spray to be applied by you or her? In that case, yes, you should inform her you want a licensed exterminator to handle the spraying. They can also tell you where to block up any holes or things they’re going in. Otherwise, if she was already going to have an exterminator do it, I’m not sure what else you want her to do aside from commit to filling in any holes.

    Check your lease on the subletting. There may be a clause prohibiting it.

  • I lived in an basement in DC one year and it was infested Camel Crickets when I moved in. The best thing that worked was laying down glue traps, I think they are made for mice but once one jumps on them it attracts others. It’s a gross seeing them all on the boards but it definitely worked!!

  • As a landlord, I’d suggest that you continue to contact your landlord and ask her to obtain a professional pest abatement service. A good landlord should do that for you without question. If she refuses, I’d tell her that you are going to retain a pest control service on your own and will then reduct that cost from your rent. If you do so, submit copies of the pest control invoices to document the amount by which you have reduced your rent.

    Even if your lease has a provision against self-help/rent reductions, there is no way in the world that your landlord will sue you over taking these sensible steps to deal with an insect problem, when she won’t do it on her own. She’d be laughed out of court with such a claim.

  • Wrong. Having tons of bugs in your living space is disgusting, unsanitary and not an acceptable living condition. It is the landlady’s job to make them go away, not the tenant’s job to “just deal with it.”

  • I would call an exterminator, pay for it, and deduct it from my rent- along with a receipt. Landlords have a responsibility to keep their rentals free from insects and vermin. If you get any push back after that, then you should leave- and state that you prefer to live in a legal rental with a landlord that is accountable for their b.s.

  • If you like the apartment otherwise, please don’t move over the crickets. There are much, much worse things out there in rental-land and this should be easy for you and she to resolve. I second the suggestions for the big sticky boards, they will solve 90% of the problem and some are even covered so you don’t have to look at the dead bugs. Having a glue board tucked in a corner or under the fridge is a good idea anyway in a rental to serve as an early warning system for any insect pests. Seal up any holes with Great Stuff, it will save you money in heating costs anyway. Make sure your door threshold has a good seal with its rubber weather strip and you will be good to go. Using an exterminator or even spraying some Raid yourself shouldn’t be necessary if you use glue traps and do the winterizing. Total cost for the materials will be about $20. These crickets are not very persistent pests and once you get rind of the ones that are there, you should be good until the spring. Best of luck and think of it as practice for owning you own home.

  • We are just getting out of a very similar situation. We have a roach and mice infestation and the landlords, who were renting out the apartment illegally (we found out later), refused to make the necessary repairs to the house so that pests could not enter. They also refused to pay for an exterminator to spray their portion of the house, where the cockroach nest was. Gross. We contacted OTA for advice and they were awesome. We told the landlords that we were in the process of scheduling a housing inspection, and then they agreed to terminate the lease rather than go down that road.

    You should definitely read the OTA Tenant Survival Guide and contact OTA. It doesn’t matter if these are “just crickets,” this is a violation of your rights as a tenant! Tell your landlord that you are planning to schedule an inspection with DCRA. She will likely be open to terminating your lease if it means she won’t have to get an inspection done. As OTA told me, if the landlord is renting out the apartment and doesn’t have the proper license, then the inspection is the least of her worries. I bet that if you do end up having the inspection, DCRA would find a bunch of other housing code violations as well.

    Best of luck!

  • maxwell smart

    As someone who lives in a basement apartment in NW DC, I can attest to having to deal with these guys on a semi-regular basis. I call them Prawns (they remind me of District 9). There are a couple of things you should look into:

    1: Get a dehumidifier and keep it running 24:7 during Spring thru Fall. I have noticed a significant reduction once I started running the dehumidifier as the crickets (also called cave crickets) prefer humid environments.
    2: I don’t know what it’s called, but there is this stuff that looks like sawdust that you can sprinkle around that apparently they don’t like – talk to a hardware store. I just made little cups of the stuff and left it under furniture, etc. as I didn’t want sawdust powder all over the floor.
    3: the glue-traps do work although with 1 and 2 I haven’t felt the need to use them. I usually only find 1 or 2 a month that make it into the apartment.
    4: as people have mentioned, they will eat other crickets. I’ve also noticed they can survive without limbs.
    5: swiffer sweepers make excellent cricket killers. FYI.

    Good luck!

  • yes for as long as I’ve been in DC (20+yrs) some sort of cricket/grasshopper will invade basements every year around this time. They are pretty annoying but can be remedied with an exterminator. Remember you are renting a basement. You are living several feet underground so don’t feel you can move to another one and expect it to be free of insects.

  • Anybody else notice that the critter in the photo looks like an ordinary field cricket, not a camel cricket?

  • GEt a cat!! I had the same problem in a basement apartment in college park. I couldn’t deal with the armies of crickets that stood in my entry way hall. I hated finding them in my shower when I’m completely naked or wording about stepping on none barefoot in the night. Once I brought a borrowed cat from my parents’ house over, the apartment cleared up almost over night. The cat hunted day and night. Who knows, maybe word spread among those ugly bastards because they stopped messing with my address. Best of luck.

  • To your points:
    1. An inspection by an exterminator has absolutely squat to do with an illegal rental. It’s not the exterminator’s concern whether your rental is legal or not. They are just there to determine if there is a pest problem and how to solve it. My guess is she’s more concerned about the cost than possible legal issues with the city.
    2. I doubt she will sue you, though, as a landlord I am on her side about not wanting a tenant to move out RIGHT after they moved in. It is a hassle to go through that process even once a year. However, I do think it’s unreasonable on her part if she will not procure pest abatement, or at least get estimates.
    3. Again, you won’t understand unless you become a landlord someday, but no, I would not say she is lazy because she does not want to go through the process of finding a new tenant immediately after a new one moved in. I think you are both being somewhat unreasonable. You have to sleep in a friends’ place because there are crickets in your apartment? Come on. It’s gross and annoying, but you really need to break your lease because of this? I suggest you talk with her and inform her that you intend to contact an exterminator as the bug problem is worse than spray will resolve. If she’s a reasonable landlord, she will be fine with this.

    • This reads so much like an annoying “You won’t understand until you become a parent . . .” comment.

      I wouldn’t sleep in a place with giant crickets either. I don’t think OP is being unreasonable at all.

  • 1. NOTE: The unit is your space; YOU can invite an inspector into YOUR HOME.
    2. The infestation is an issue; disregard any down play of its presence
    3. The landlord must have a certificate of occupancy; a basic business license, filed the building as rental property with the rent administrator; subject to the rent control act?

    that many crickets of that type in particular suggests a high level of hidden moisture;
    moisture draws them in.

    a.) Go to DCRA and verify that there is a certificate of occupancy for the building; that there is a basic business license for the property; that the building is registered with the rent administrator. If any of these are not on file, then ask that office to issue a letter (with the government seal) stating its non existence.


    b.) Have a private inspector enter and report on defects, then share the report with the landlord for civil discussion

    If you are rebuffed:

    c.) File a complaint with the Housing Administrator (housing inspectors).
    d) If she offers any threat, file a retaliatory complaint with DCRA Housing.

    This here is merely a suggestion on what you could do. I’m not a lawyer.
    But I do hope it offers you some comfort in knowing what to do.

    If you want to discuss this further, then call me (Jim Delgado) on 202-439-3100.
    I think once we speak, you’ll know your options better.

  • Did I miss something or has the OP established that the landlord is renting illegally? Just because she won’t “snap to it” doesn’t mean something illegal is happening. As some of the other commenters have suggested, the OP should try _working_with the landlord and stop being so demanding.

    • +1 and why is everyone saying “report her to DCRA”? Is that really necessary? Sure if she actually refuses to remedy the problem, it might warrant threatening to report her, but I think if the OP can calm down for a minute and actually have a reasonable discussion with said landlord it might be a lot more productive than threatening to report her to the city and breaking the lease…

      • I would bet a large number of landlords in this city don’t know the rules and so are renting ‘illegaly.’ I know I was – out of ignorance of what I needed to do. Declared rent on tax returns for years but only recently took the steps necessary with the city. That said, I always respond very quickly to any issues with my property because it’s an investment that i want to maintain properly. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to request a visit from an exterminator and any decent landlord would comply – legal rental or not.

  • I agree with everyone on here, and think there are a lot of clever solutions to resolve the issue, and that if you want to stay, you should pursue those. While it sucks to have a crappy, unresponsive landlord, if you have a good apartment at a good price in a good location, it’s worthwhile to just consider this practice for being a homeowner someday where you’ll have to handle things like this on your own anyway.
    If you decide to leave, though, you most certainly have the right to do so. Don’t worry about her suing you. In fact, hope that she does. There’s a good chance a judge in landlord tenant court will actually award you damages from her. So, it could turn out to be very profitable!

  • I typically have a live/let/live policy with spiders and the other little harmless critters, but the sprickets tend to be more of a problem. They like to take green craps on my stuff.

    I make a trap out of two parallel strips of duct tape, each about 12 inches long, overlapped about a 1/4 inch. Basically a little pad of duct tape. Then stick two or three chucks of dry cat food in the middle. The sprickets get stuck, can’t escape, and become bait for the next hapless cannibal insect. This is not for the faint of heart, it takes a few days for them to starve to death and they will tear into any others within reach.

    If you’ve got $200 laying around you can rig this motion-detecting-wi-fi-alerting-spricket-machine-of-death.

  • Formerly Broken Jaw

    I’ve been looking for a new username…

  • These guys love moisture. When we moved into a basement apartment with several dozen of them we fired up the AC to dehumidify the place. I then threw them outside one-by-one, using a clear plastic cup and a piece of paper. We haven’t seen them in 2+ years.

    No big deal. The world is full a creepy crawly things. Think of these guys as quiet roommates or pets!

  • FUCK. NO. This is what nightmares are made of.

  • I’ve always called the “spider crickets”

  • File a case against her in Housing Conditions court. It costs $15.

    The judge will send an inspector over to see the bugs and will make her get an exterminator. It’s really easy to do.

  • In the meantime, get sticky traps and put them everywhere. It’s the only thing that will work against the crickets already in your unit. Put them in every corner and closet and under furniture!

  • That is not an asian camel cricket. That is a black field cricket. I know my crickets…

  • 1. This post needs a trigger warning for those nasty cricket pictures.
    2. I also dealt with camel crickets in my basement apartment (and some other pests, too). I kept them out by doing a pretty deep clean, and then I bought the most powerful spray you can buy at the hardware store and spritzed that EVERYWHERE. Around the door, along all the baseboards, under the fridge, along the tub. EVERYWHERE a cricket might hang out.

    You’re always going to get a few pests in any basement apartment in DC, but your landlord’s house sounds like it might have a problem if you’re getting 20+ in a month.

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