Most common basement bugs are crawling–not flying–insects. Any crack, gap, or penetration in basement walls allow easy access. Once inside, they nest, lay eggs, and can cause a lot of damage.
Bugs are attracted to basements for a number of reasons.
- Ease of Access. Close to the ground where bugs live. Any small opening is an access point. Often enter living areas, then migrate to the basement.
- Food. Stored produce and food, cardboard, fabric, books, wood, etc. Bugs that prey on bugs already in the basement.
- Moisture. High humidity, foundation leaks, plumbing leaks, condensation.
- Shelter. Warm dark location with many hiding places. Larger influx in fall as the weather gets cooler.
6 Common Basement Bugs
There are dozens of insect species that can be found in basements. Many are usually few and easy to get rid of. The following bugs infest a basement if given a chance.
Termite colonies are about the worst type of bug found in a basement. They live underground and inside wood framing members–eating it as they go. Termites are very rarely seen exposed on basement floors or walls.
Termites cost US homeowners approximately $5 billion per year. It usually takes 3 – 5 years before any damage is noticeable. Get a professional termite inspection yearly (cost: less than $250.00) to save on costly repairs.
Cockroaches are most often found close to a food source. They are omnivorous and eat almost anything that comes from a once living organism–plant or animal. Included in their diet are vegetables, fruit, starch in book bindings, paper, cardboard, glue, hair, dead insects, and skin flakes. Also kitty litter. Many items on this short list are found in basements.
American cockroaches are one of the most common basement bugs. If you see one roach, be prepared for dozens or more. Cockroaches are social bugs and may leave chemical trails to attract others to food sources.
Ants are always searching for food sources. Once they find one in a basement, they will continue to return. Ants may also establish a colony in the basement–often in insulation behind drywall. Killing worker ants as they travel around the basement does not significantly reduce the size of the colony.
Ant colonies can be eliminated quickly by mixing icing sugar with borax and leaving soaked cotton balls for them to find. The sugar attracts the ants and the borax kills them when ingested.
Spiders are attracted into basements by other bugs that they hunt. Most people try to eliminate spiders because they can be scary. A large spider infestation is usually an indication that there are many other bugs living in the basement.
Centipedes are also predators. They hunt roaches and silverfish at night. They are rarely seen unless disturbed. They move quickly and look a little intimidating with 15 to over 100 pairs of legs. Centipedes are harmless. As with spiders, the presence of centipedes could signal that other basement bugs are present.
Silverfish are another bug that eats almost anything. Books, carpet, clothing, hair, paint, plaster, and sugar is a short list. Many basements provide a feast. They are nocturnal, avoid light and are very quick when disturbed.
Silverfish have an average lifespan of 3 years and females lay about 100 eggs during that time. A few silverfish turns into an infestation if they are not exterminated. They are not known to spread any diseases.
Eliminating Basement Bugs
Insect traps and poisons–both organic and chemical–are available to help eliminate most basement bugs. Some–like termites–require professional attention. While eliminating the bugs, take preventative measures.
- Remove all food sources–if possible. Or store food in bug-proof containers.
- Seal as many openings as you can find. Gaps, cracks, and wall penetrations. Install screen on air intakes.
- Inspect fruit, vegetables, and plants for hitchhiking bugs. Many females lay dozens or hundreds of eggs.
- Keep the basement clean. Cluttered messy basements attract bugs and provide numerous hiding places.