Residents of Wichita, Kan., are dealing with a chirping surprise as thousands of crickets, mostly dead, crowd their downtown.
The infestation began earlier this month and the amount of these bugs are startling even to local experts. "Crickets do this every year but not in these numbers," explains Chad Betts of Betts Pest Control. "People are seeing tons of dead crickets around. They're noticing and asking 'what's going on here?'"
Betts attributes the phenomenon to circumstances that are creating thriving conditions for the bug. Huge amounts of rain in July followed by warm temperatures in August and September led to an increase in hatched eggs. "It's kind of like an incubator," Betts states.
The simple fact is, however, that Wichita does not have enough bare dirt to accommodate the increase in the noisy critter. They have emerged from their natural habitat to seek shelter in the city and are not surviving in the higher temperatures.
"There isn't any place to find shelter downtown so they find themselves trapped in the parking lots and on concrete," explains Betts. "When the sun comes out in the morning, they're exposed to the extreme heat-it just kills them." As many as 1,000 crickets can be seen in any given Wichita parking lot.
Cleanup is usually taken care of naturally, with birds feasting on the bug buffet. Some residents may have to sweep up the remnants, and in the worst case experts like Betts may be called in to chemically repel them if they enter buildings.
Betts assures that this natural phenomenon will not throw off any of the local ecosystems and will eventually even itself out. "Some years there are a high number of crickets, other years the conditions aren't so good… This year it was just the perfect storm."