EDMOND — The weather in Oklahoma over several months has provided the perfect conditions for an explosion in the state’s cricket population, an entomologist said Tuesday.
The insects can be seen primarily in the early evening and early morning hours, on the sides, sidewalks and even inside buildings across the state.
“They’re fine when it’s one cricket. It’s a whole new story when they’re covering the sides of buildings,” said Megan Freedman outside an Oklahoma City office building where dozens of the insects lay dead on the sidewalk.
The cricket population boom is likely tied to the weather, said Oklahoma State University entomologist Rick Grantham.
“It’s probably a combination of the very warm winter we had. Essentially we didn’t have a winter … no snow, and suddenly we had a wet spring to go with it,” said Grantham. “We didn’t have any mortality of crickets over the winter, then they bred, reproduced and thrived.”
The drought conditions that have spread across Oklahoma since spring are ideal for the cricket population, in part because it reduces their natural predators, Grantham said.
“Crickets have a parasite, called the horsehair worm, that will attack them and cut down their numbers,” according to Grantham.
That, and other cricket predators such as snakes, spiders and frogs, prefer cooler, damper conditions, Grantham said.
“I’m hoping Isaac will extend into Oklahoma, that would cool things off and provide rain,” Grantham said in regard to the hurricane that made landfall in Louisiana on Tuesday. Some weather models have shown Isaac extending as far west as the eastern one-third of Oklahoma.
Brandon Johnson, who live near Guthrie, said crickets are waiting to get into buildings.
“I walk into my shop,” each morning Johnson said. “I’ve got a concrete door … six or eight crickets are trying to get in garage with me and I’ve got about 300 crickets in the shop.”
Johnson said he uses a bug spray each day in his shop, then sweeps the dead crickets away.
Though a nuisance, the insect is not a health hazard, according to Grantham.
“Actually, there is a lot of people who will toast them and eat them,” Grantham said, “They are nutritious and have a lot of protein.”
The thought that gave Freedman pause.
“Well, I wouldn’t do it,” said Freedman after thinking for several seconds. “If they want to, they can go right on ahead.”