Invasion of the crickets

Cape Town - Some call it an invasion of Biblical proportions while others complain about the cacophony keeping them up at night.

An outbreak of crickets in Cape Town and surrounding areas has set social media chirping about the harmless insects that have reportedly caused shops and clinics to temporarily close their doors.

Ideal weather encourages breeding. Picture: Mlondolozi Mbolo. Credit: INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS

One Facebook commentator said: “The crickets are like our national cricket(ers), very noisy but no bite.”

While household pets have been set to work sniffing the noisy creatures out from under couches, the City of Cape Town has been trying to de-bug the Khayelitsha clinic.

Mayoral committee member for health Lungiswa James said Matthew Goniwe clinic was open to patients on Tuesday afternoon after city officials managed to get most of the crickets out of the healthcare facility.

But the clinic was still singing as crickets hid in hard-to-get-to spaces.

James said there was no trouble at other clinics, but she had received numerous calls from the public complaining about the outbreak.

“They’re harmless, they don’t bite and they’re not carriers of any diseases,” James said. “We’re just urging people to bear with them – they will be gone in a few weeks.”

Dr Mike Picker, an associate professor at UCT’s department of biological sciences, confirmed that the crickets were nothing more than a nuisance.

“There’s absolutely no health risk. Crickets are not known to transmit bacteria, unlike cockroaches,” he said.

The outbreak was due to a bumper breeding season, Picker said.

“Normally insects have one generation a year. Under exceptional conditions they can squeeze in two generations.”

Last year’s winter was warm, so more adults than usual survived, laying an extra set of eggs.

Then, with summer being particularly warm and wet, the eggs developed faster than usual.

“They’ve managed to fit two generations into the summer,” Picker said.

The adults lived up to four months and the current crop was more likely to die of old age than of cold. “By the time we have the first cold front they’ll be on the way out.”

Picker advised people not to use poison to control the chirpy intruders. Crickets often find their way indoors where it is dangerous to use pesticides.

“I would suggest that people catch them physically or use a sticky trap made for cockroaches.”

If the sticky mat is placed in a dark space against a wall, the crickets will crawl on to it at night.

James suggested that residents block gaps in walls that crickets might climb through, and use a hosepipe to flush outside areas. - Cape Argus