Weather spawns cricket infestation

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If Austinites don’t watch their steps this summer, they may end up crushing a cricket. However, chances are another one will quickly take its place.

High rainfall earlier this year and hot temperatures these past few months have brought a rise in the local cricket population. UT biology lecturer John Abbott said this spike in population occurs every few years when there is the right combination of weather conditions, such as heat and last year’s drought. He said drought conditions killed many predators that eat crickets, which has contributed to the cricket abundance, although the infestation should only last a few weeks.

Abbot said one way to keep the crickets at bay is to turn off outside lights at night when they are most active.

John Burns, UT facility services manager, said the custodial crews have placed bait in hot spots around campus to kill the crickets.

“The crickets have been eating this bait pretty fast because there are so many,” Burns said. “Some hot spots include the Harry Ransom Center, Gregory Gym, the Blanton Museum and the Performing Arts Center.”

According to Accuweather, a worldwide weather service organization, there have been nearly 1.5 times the normal amount of rainfall in Austin this year.

Frequent rainfall makes the earth soft for egg-laying and a suitable breeding ground for crickets. Each female cricket can lay between 200 and 400 eggs and are attracted to bright lights. Crickets give off a foul odor and are noisy throughout the night, which is the primary time they are awake.

Roy Jackson, biology and rhetoric senior, said the vast number of crickets are a nuisance around his apartment building in Far West campus.

“They are harmless creatures,” Jackson said. “On the other hand, they are annoying and keep crawling into my apartment.”

Monica Malone, general manager of J&J Pest Control, said the mild weather and abundance of rain in Austin last winter provided the right climate for cricket survival.

“We are getting like 5 billion calls per minute,” Malone said. “These are primarily from commercial buildings because the big parking lot lights draw every cricket in the world to their building.”