The kind of bugs that try to get into homes are often particularly attracted to basements. These basement dwellers also tend to look particularly fearsome or gross. The good news is, no: the bugs in your basement probably aren’t dangerous. Very few basement pests can hurt you or your property.
The bad news: if you leave these pests alone, they’ll still find a way to make trouble for you. Usually by eating or otherwise ruining your stuff. These are five of the dangerous-looking bugs in your basement, how they could affect you, and whether or not they’re anything to worry about:
Silverfish are members of the Zygentoma order of insects. They’re wingless, teardrop-shaped silver-grey insects that measure around ½ to ¾” long. Silverfish are easily identified by their silver scales, long antennae, and their three bristle-like tail appendages. Silverfish are attracted to dark, moist environments and feed on the polysaccharide found in starches, glue, and paper products.
Silverfish are not dangerous. They can’t bite, sting, transmit diseases, or inflict significant structural damage on your property. Silverfish will chew through and damage or ruin paper, packaging, clothing, and other fabrics. You should take steps to remove silverfish from your basement immediately, but you don’t have to fear them.
The centipedes in your basement are almost certainly house centipedes, or Scutigera coleoptrata. House centipedes are 1 to 1½“ inches long, yellow with brown striping, and have fifteen pairs of legs. Their last pair of legs is over twice the length of the centipede’s body, which makes the arthropod look 3 to 4” long. Centpedes require constant moisture and feed on other basement-dwelling pests.
House centipedes can “sting” you by injecting venom via their hollow front legs. These stings are very rare and will only happen if the centipede is cornered or feels threatened. While the sting will hurt about as much as a bee sting, it can’t seriously endanger you. Centipedes can’t transmit diseases or inflict any kind of structural damage, either. While house centipedes are rather intimidating, they’re not seriously dangerous.
Earwigs are all members of the 2,000 species insect order Dermaptera. The earwigs in your home are probably the common earwig, or Forficula auricularia. Common earwigs are ⅝” long with flat, elongated, segmented bodies that are dark brown. Earwigs’ most easily-identifiable feature is their prominent, pincer-like cerci located on their lower abdomen. Earwigs are burrowing insects and seek dark, humid environments.
Earwigs are not dangerous at all. They can’t sting, bite, significantly hurt you in any other way, transmit diseases, or inflict structural damage. In some rare circumstances, earwigs could pinch you with their cerci, but they won’t be able to break your skin. Earwigs are completely harmless to humans, inside or outside.
Crickets are members of the insect family Gryllidae. There are over 900 species of crickets found all over the world. Several types of crickets could enter your home, including the house cricket, field cricket, and camel cricket. The most common indoor cricket is probably the house cricket (Acheta domesticus). House crickets are ¾ to ⅞” and long, yellowish-brown with long, thin antennae.
House crickets aren’t dangerous, because they can’t hurt people or transmit diseases. These crickets do feed on wool, cotton, silk, and synthetic fibers, however, which means they’ll damage clothing and cloth. House crickets also “chirp” very loudly, which could be a serious problem if it keeps you up all night.
Everyone knows what spiders are! There are over 3,400 species of spiders in the US, thousands of which may enter your home. Generally, the spiders that enter your home are smaller orb-weaver or web-spinning spiders. They build webs to catch prey that might also attempt to enter your home. You’ll find spiders near window and door frames, as well as rafters and other secluded places.
Of the thousands of spider species that can enter your home, almost none are dangerous. There are two spider species that have medically-significant bites in North America: the black widow and brown recluse spiders. If you’re bitten by one of these spiders, you should seek medical attention immediately. Spider bites (especially by black widows and brown recluse spiders) are very rare and never unprompted, however. If you see a spider you think could be venomous, you should treat it cautiously, but don’t need to be afraid of it.
None of the bugs here may be particularly dangerous, but that doesn’t mean you should tolerate their basement-crashing. Pest problems don’t go away on their own and usually get worse the longer you leave them alone. Next time you notice a creepy-crawly thing in your basement, get in touch with Plunkett’s. We’ll wipe it out and make sure it can’t get in again. Don’t panic when you see bugs--get help!