Why are there so many crickets around Austin this time of year?
This story was originally published on October 13, 2016.
Every year they invade Austin in loud swarms – eating, drinking, mating. No, it’s not the throngs of ACL or South by Southwest. We’re talking about the crickets.
Since October is prime cricket season, it’s no surprise we received an ATXplained question about the perennial pests. Kelly Gonzales, a pediatric dentist in Georgetown, asked:
“Why there are so many crickets this time of year. And why does it seem their population exponentially multiplies?”
A lot of people love crickets. They think they’re cute, like Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio. Some people keep crickets as pets, and others eat them. But Gonzales has a cricket problem. The bugs seemed drawn to her workplace.
“Today when we were in one of our treatment rooms, and we just kept hearing this cricket,” she said. “We crawled all through the room trying to figure out where it was, and it turned out, we think it was in the light fixture.”
Gonzales says her office has “cricket patrol” in the mornings, when they sweep up cricket carcasses, but it’s not just in her office. She says the cricket situation seems to be getting worse everywhere, every year.
“Are they going to take over the city? I feel like I’m a little bit in Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds,’” she said. “I guess you could find out if we could make money off of all of these crickets.”
The first step is to verify the problem, and the best answer may come from folks who deal with crickets and other pests on a daily basis.
So, do pest control experts in Austin think there are an unusual amount of crickets this year?
Keld Ewart of Bug Master says no. “This is kind of standard,” he said.
“So far, I haven’t really thought that or heard a lot of feedback on that,” Rob Wheeler with Aztec Organic Pest Service said.
Longhorn Pest Control’s Bronson Boyd says no, too.
“I’d say even a little bit less than normal,” he said.
So could Gonzales just be wrong? Derrick Miller of Dyrrick Pest Control says maybe.
“She moved to a place and they're having them a lot,” he said. "Maybe they're just catching her attention more. Sort of like when you buy a car. Once you buy a car, you start seeing a lot more cars like yours.”
But Gonzales had one piece of evidence in her favor. She emailed a video a friend had taken of a school in Georgetown. The building was covered in crickets. It was besieged, drowned, swamped – very close to biblical.
Butch Skelton, founder of All State Pest Control in Georgetown, says his company has had quite a few calls about crickets, but that’s common every year.
Skelton says cricket invasions can be very local things and some years are worse than others. This year, he says, the crickets seemed pretty active, but it was nothing compared to the worst year. That was sometime in the mid-'80s. That year, he said, was “like something out of a horror movie”
“They were so bad downtown, that when you left a red light, your tires would spin because they were just dead crickets all over the street,” he said. "And that smell. Oh my god, it was horrible!”
Judging from the calls, it sounds like cricket populations are not growing every year. But it’s possible that this is a big cricket year where Gonzales lives.
Elizabeth “Wizzy” Brown, an entomologist for Texas Agrilife Extension Service, says the cricket-covered school is “a massive cricket outbreak.” But, she also said the clip illustrates what crickets are attracted to.
“If you notice … the lumps [of crickets] were around doorways, and then also around downspouts. So, moisture and light,” she said. “What happens is they’ll come out and get active at night – and, usually, this is mating season for them. So, they’re going out, looking for a mate and they’re going to be attracted to things like light, moisture and, of course, other crickets.”
But the video also illustrates how to keep hordes of crickets at bay.
1.) Turn off the lights at night. If you turn off the lights, there will be fewer crickets waiting for you when the sun rises.
2.) Keep all entrances to your house sealed. They won’t be able to sneak in as easily if they see lights on inside.
3.) Keep stuff off your floor in your garage and around your doors. Rob Wheeler with Aztec Organic Pest Control says crickets love to hide out under cardboard boxes and other clutter
4.) Wait a few weeks. Cricket mating season is short and it will all be over very soon.
Gonzales' second question was whether there was a way to make money off the crickets. The short answer: Some people have.
More and more attention is being given to eating bugs as an eco-friendly way to get protein. After weeks of fighting crickets in her office, one might think it’d be cathartic for Gonzales to eat a bag of “Chirridos,” chips made with cricket flour.
Her verdict: “Not bad.”
It seems revenge is a dish best served in chip form.