'Perfect storm' leads to insect increase - ocolly.com : OSU

Attack of the crickets 'Perfect storm' leads to insect increase

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Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2012 9:58 pm

The now familiar cricket horde has been here for months, and unless there is a return to normalcy in our season cycle, they could be here to stay.

“I wish all crickets were dead,” exclaimed one student to her friend, as she walked out of the Colvin Recreation Center and noticed the hundreds of chirping insects scattered on the illuminated sidewalks beneath her.

The invasion of field crickets in recent months has been frustrating to many students who have found the resilient little intruders littered across the floors of their houses and apartments across Stillwater.

Samuel Qualk, a hotel and restaurant administration senior, said the problem has been recurring for him.

“As I moved in to my apartment I quickly noticed the large amount of crickets in my room and living area,” he said. “Every day I end up finding and having to deal with at least two or three of them.”

Richard Grantham, entomologist and director of the insect diagnostic laboratory at OSU, attributes much of the large cricket population to the “perfect storm” experienced with the weather and climate of the previous year.

“Probably the biggest factor was no winter,” Grantham said. “With no winter, and a nice, warm, wet spring, everything bloomed.”

Crickets, like most other insects, go through a cycle of heavy mortality during normal, cold winters. Winter last year was far from normal in this respect. This, coupled with the lack of rain in recent months, has created an environment that the crickets have thrived in.

Grantham said he thinks the drought has also lent a hand to the crickets’ survival, for it has led to the demise and disappearance of a natural parasite to them called the horsehair worm.

“The horsehair worms reproduce in mud puddles,” Grantham said. “Because there wasn’t any free standing water like that, the crickets were not getting parasitized and their population exploded.”

Stillwater has seen cricket populations like this before and in years past, the problems they have caused have been much more appalling.

“Probably six or seven years ago we had a really bad year [of crickets on campus], and we had people in the Physical Plant talk about the elevator shaft in Boone Pickens Stadium,” Grantham said. “It was three feet deep in the elevator shaft of dead crickets.”

Problems with campus facilities caused by crickets have not yet been reported, and things seem to be running smoothly.

Gary Shutt, OSU director of communications, has not heard from Physical Plant of any issues the crickets have created.

Without a normal winter and a liberation from the drought Stillwater is currently in, students could see an even larger amount of crickets next year, and the cries to see “all crickets dead” will surely be louder.