The pest goes by many names.

I have a friend who calls them mutant spiders. The exterminator at my neighbor’s house calls them criders. The bug is also called spider cricket, spricket, cave cricket and camel cricket.

From here forward, I’ll just refer to them as spider crickets.

During the summer and fall, spider crickets seek dark and damp places in your basement, family room, shed or crawl space. They often congregate in large numbers.

When frightened they jump, often directly at what frightens them.  Don’t bend down for a closer look or you might get a spider cricket in your face.

From a distance, the spider cricket looks like a wolf spider. It’s about the same size and color. Up close, however, the spider cricket looks like a shrimp with long legs, but please note there will be no taste test with this article.

Spider crickets are voracious eaters. They feast on fungus, fabric, carpets, wood, cardboard, dust, plants and even each other. Their mandibles are very strong, and they can chew through many different household items.

Does the spider cricket bite humans? The answer depends on whom you ask. Most sources will answer “no” because the bug’s mandibles are meant for chewing and not inflicting a bite in self-defense. They jump in self-defense.

But if a spider cricket lands on your skin, they can start gnawing, which will cause pain. I have a friend who described their gnawing bite as painful. A pet store owner, however, described the bite as an annoyance.

Spider crickets don’t attract mates by making chirping sounds with their legs and body like the common cricket. They attract mates by emitting a smell. And they can reproduce in your house or basement if the conditions are appropriately damp and dark. Because the bugs love to congregate in large numbers, it’s best that they don’t start reproducing in your house!

Just like stink bugs, spider crickets are “accidental invaders” into our houses. A dark basement, family room or crawl space resembles a natural environment for the insect. To prevent spider crickets from entering your home, seal or caulk openings into the lowest level. It also helps to keep your basement or crawl space dry, clutter-free and well-lit. Dehumidifiers can help.

If you have spider crickets established in your house, here’s a website that offers some rather creative and unusual tips for ridding your house of the bugs. An exterminator is a good idea, too.

How common are spider crickets? Last week, I polled my friends on Facebook to find out how many of them have experienced this creepy bug. I quickly learned that spider crickets are widespread in our area.  Here are a few of their responses:

— I positively despise these critters! My first encounter with them was over 20 years ago, when I lived in Herndon. Since I was in a townhouse sans basement then, don’t know how they got in. But they would show up in the living room. I know I screamed the first time I saw one — God must have been in a peculiar mood when he created this aberration. UGH!

— Used to have them all over my crawlspace. Put plastic down and a couple bombs and haven’t had much problems with them since.

— OMG we have seen these in our basement and I am so grateful to now know they are just crickets. I wasn’t sure if they were mutant spiders.

— I saw one of these in my garage in N.C. and about had a heart attack.  Luckily, I ran before it could even think about jumping at me.

— We always have some in the basement in the summer. The cats enjoy the diversion!

— Oh they bite! And stings like hell!

— We call them spider crickets and I avoided the basement of my childhood home because of them. I recall feeling trapped, mutant spiders barricading me into corners. At the very least, I learned to wear shoes when going to the basement. Also, my cats munched them.

— We live in a 100-year old house in Hamilton and I’ve recently become very well-acquainted with “cave-crickets” a.k.a spider crickets. They freak me the heck out when I go downstairs in the middle of the night to get water. Ours tend to come out at night and I’ve had them jump at me on numerous occasions … at first I thought they were some weird type of spiders.

— They taste like shrimp.

A special thanks to my neighbor who has a shed overrun by hundreds of spider crickets. Their shed was my inspiration for this article and also served as my photo studio for the spider cricket close-up shots and video. And, I will note, I was very careful not to bring any of the little buggers home with me.