Crickets Arrive Early This Year
Cricket outbreaks are one of the most predictable pest events of the year in most areas of Texas. Usually late summer and fall are when adult crickets become especially abundant around homes and commercial buildings. This year they are here to annoy us early!! Although the cricket species associated with outbreaks in Texas have not been well-studied, most belong to the Gryllus assimilis complex, and are collectively referred to as black field crickets, or field crickets.
Field cricket eggs are laid in the fall, approximately two weeks after females mature and develop wings. Firm, bare soil sites are preferred for egg-laying. A single female cricket may lay from 150-400 eggs. Eggs remain in the soil throughout the winter and hatch the following spring.
Cricket nymphs can be identified by the incomplete development of the wings. Immature crickets require approximately three months to complete their development and become adults. Once the cricket reaches the adult stage it is capable of flight and mating. Cricket outbreaks occur when large numbers of nymphs complete their development and embark on nighttime mating flights.
The largest cricket outbreaks seem to occur during years of dry springs and summers. The reason for cricket outbreaks under such conditions is not fully understood; however, less fungal disease among eggs and cricket nymphs may provide a partial explanation. Although crickets can be locally abundant in any year, numbers appear to be highest in August and September when a summer drought is broken by rainfall and cooler weather.
Field crickets are primarily outdoor insects, and as such are only accidental indoor invaders. Nevertheless, they can become a considerable household nuisance when abundant. Unlike house crickets (the species commonly sold in stores as pet food), they will not breed or establish permanent indoor infestations.
Indoors, crickets may damage clothing, drapes or wall coverings by their feeding activities or by staining with their feces or regurgitations. Although crickets do not normally feed on fabrics, soiled clothing or clothes stained with perspiration may be damaged by crickets.
During severe outbreaks crickets can create an aesthetically unacceptable situation around places of business. Dead crickets quickly pile up, causing odors; and many people are repelled by the sight of large numbers of crickets on walls and sidewalks around offices and stores.
Outdoor lighting is the most important single cause of severe cricket infestations around homes and commercial buildings. Buildings that are brightly lit at night are most likely to attract the largest numbers of crickets during the fall mating season. Reducing outdoor lights is the first, and most important, step in a cricket control program.
Outdoor lights should be turned off as early in the evening as practical, or should be replaced with lamps that are less attractive to insects. Low-pressure sodium vapor lamps and yellow incandescent “bug lights” are less attractive to crickets than standard incandescent, flourescent, mercury vapor or halogen lights. Floodlights that illuminate homes or buildings, and which are not necessary for security purposes, should be turned off; or the lighting schedule should be restricted to a few hours each night. Turning on outdoor lights 1.5 hours after sunset and turning them off 1.5 hours before the sun rises will significantly reduce cricket infestations.
All potential points of entry for crickets should be caulked or sealed. Such sites include weep holes, soffits along the eaves of homes, windows, garage doors, etc. Crickets are especially likely to enter cracks and openings around outdoor lights, so check these areas carefully. Steel or brass wool may be stuffed in weep holes as temporary insect barriers, while allowing continued air circulation.