Last week we received an e-mail entitled “Huge Fleas” - as you can imagine, I was quite intrigued! This poor man, by the name of Mike, had these creatures (his picture of one of them, right), resembling giant fleas, falling out of a crack in his ceiling. He must have been going crazy wondering what they were, where they came from, and what they were doing in his house.
Well, that’s where I come in. I love to help you identify strange creatures of the bug world and hopefully set your mind at ease!
So, this time around I knew exactly what Mike’s “giant fleas” were as soon as I saw the picture. I have come across these critters before, once while working for a local pest control company, and once while working here at the museum. They are commonly known as “scuds,” a very flattering name indeed, but they are officially named amphipods. These are a type of shrimp-like crustacean.
They are mostly aquatic, but there are a few species that are terrestrial. These species have to live in very moist areas and can usually be found in mulch and moist soil. Unlike insects and most other arthropods, they don’t have a waxy layer covering their bodies to retain or excrete moisture, so conditions have to be balanced – not too dry, not too wet – in order for them to survive. If things get too wet outside, like after a heavy rain, they will seek out more favorable conditions inside your home. That’s when you may run into them!
Mike sent us this e-mail shortly after the huge rainstorm we had, so that is a possible reason for them being in his house. Another possibility is that there was a lot of moisture in his attic, perhaps some sort of a leak. The scuds could have been searching for a moist and warm environment and found it. No matter how they got there, they are nothing to worry about. These bugs are harmless detritivores that feed on tiny bits of organic matter and will do no damage inside your home. In fact, once they’re in there, they will probably just die from dehydration and will have been no more than a slight nuisance. So if you ever find anything resembling a huge flea, or small shrimp you can rest easy!
Thanks for the e-mail, Mike!
If you ever need help identifying a weird bug you’ve found, please snap a quick, but clear photo of it and send it into firstname.lastname@example.org. We will do our best to identify it for you quickly and your photo can be featured on our blog. Who knows, maybe it will help out someone else trying to identify the same thing. You are also welcome to bring it in! Until next time, happy bug watching!