John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Texas puts up with these insect invasions every year, but this year's stinky horde is particularly virulent.
Texans are no strangers to cricket swarms. Rising from the ground in buzzing, leaping masses, the prickly hordes routinely invade the state's urban centers during late-summer months. In 2007, for instance, the insects were so numerous that the University of Texas broke a 70-year tradition and turned off its tower light, hoping that the critters would lose enthusiasm in the darkness and hop away home.
But thanks to a mild winter this year that allowed the crickets to appear as early as April, the horde has gotten a considerable head start on building up its bloated size. The insectoid press is so strong now that it's actually harming businesses. The problem is that when the bugs die, rainstorms wet their carcasses and begin a process of moist decay that smells like death. The Waco Trib reports that shopkeepers are cleaning carpets, running air-scrubbing machines and setting out scented bouquets, mostly to no avail.
Mellinda Whitten, a manager at a bug-besieged Waco CVS, explained the stinky situation to the Trib:
The staff does its best to sweep up the crickets, dispose of them and clean the affected areas, Whitten said. But every time it rains, the problem starts again.
During the worst periods, the smell has been strong enough to repel customers, Whitten said.
“We know it affected business,” Whitten said. “Some people turned around and walked out. But you can’t help that.”
Somebody should tell the good folks of Waco that they're sweeping away a valuable source of protein. When an energy bar made from cricket flour exceeds its funding goal on Kickstarter, after all, you know the commodities market is changing.
Here's what the crickets looked like last month in Wichita Falls:
And these are... pardon me while I gag... urinals piled high with crickets during that terrible year of 2007: