At Van High School over the weekend, students from around East Texas competing in a speech and debate tournament had to step over and around thousands and thousands of crickets.
Crickets dropped down from the suspended ceiling, often in the middle of speeches.
Smith County Commissioner Cary Nix said he’s been dealing with a huge number of crickets at his business, Nix Landscape Supply in Whitehouse.
“I’ve never seen so many,” he said.
Other schools, homes and businesses have been affected as well, but experts say it’s nothing to worry about - it’s just a nuisance.
“This is an annual occurrence,” said Michael E. Merchant, a professor and extension urban entomologist for the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. “This is the cricket mating and flight season.”
Crickets have been growing all year, following a wet spring that led to ideal conditions for a population explosion.
“When fall comes, and the cooler weather, male and female crickets start to fly,” Merchant explained. “They’re nocturnal flying insects. That’s when they swarm. And they will be attracted to lights at night. So if you’re out in the country, or even in the suburbs, and have lights on at night, you’re going to draw a lot of crickets. Thousands.”
But it’s a brief part of the cricket life-cycle, he added.
“The good news is it goes away fairly quickly,” he said. “It won’t stay around for long. The easy thing to do is just turn off the lights. That will reduce the number of crickets that will be there in the morning.”
This is a problem unique to Texas.
“We have our own kind of cricket here, the black field cricket,” he said. “This is exclusive to Texas; other parts of the South don’t have to deal with this.”
And the wet spring boosted cricket populations because it increased their food supply - decaying plant material.
“That allowed more of them to survive to the fall,” Merchant said.
He recommends sweeping them up in the morning.
“If you spray (an insecticide), they’re just going to die in place and you’ll have the smell to deal with,” he said. “It makes more sense to vacuum them up or sweep them up.”
But do it quickly, he added.
“They will try to go into cracks and crevices during the day to get out of the sun,” he said.
And that’s how they end up in buildings, ceilings and breezeways.
“They’re nothing to worry about,” he said. “They’re not harmful except for their smell. When they die, they do produce a pretty bad stink. Otherwise, they don’t bite, they don’t eat our food. They’re just a nuisance.”
And remember, he repeated, it won’t last long.
Twitter: @ tmt_roy