The Perfect Swarm

Looking for Love, Crickets Pile Up in Central Texas

Photo © Mary Schmidt

Folks may recoil in horror, but the swarms of crickets massing at various locations around Central Texas are not a new phenomenon but an annual occurrence.

Piled up on porches and scurrying across sidewalks, Texas field crickets (Gryllus sp.) naturally occur in the state. Their mating season gets triggered by the first cold front, and the lights of stores and homes attracts them to gather together at night to procreate.

A perfect storm of conditions — a dry spring/summer with high temperatures occurring through September followed by a rapid temperature decrease and a bit of rain — made this year’s “invasion” particularly memorable.

Social media and local news stations featured Central Texas images that captured the imagination and spread like…. well, crickets on a mission. A few San Antonio and Austin restaurants shut their doors for an afternoon to deal with the insects. Pest control companies were inundated with calls. A school in Boerne even brought in chickens to eat  their way out of the problem.

TPWD invertebrate biologist Ross Winton says there’s no need for concern about this short-lived phenomenon.

“They may get inside your house or business, but they won’t stay long,” Winton says. “The crickets don’t bite, harm crops or spread disease.”

The field cricket foray seems to be ending as quickly as it began. Winton says the females go off to lay eggs and die. A good sweeping of carcasses is recommended to stave off the smell of decomposition.

“The eggs remain dormant in the soil over winter and the juveniles will emerge in the spring to start the cycle anew,” Winton says. “It’s hard to predict if next year will be a good year for crickets, or when we might see similar numbers in the future.”

If your mind’s still not set at ease, just remember that field crickets don’t bite or sting, they just want to munch on a bit of decaying matter.

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  1. The crickets make a good meal for our resident birds and the many other birds migrating through Texas this time of year.