By Laura Acuff, Student Reporter
They invade the dorms, infiltrate classrooms and creep through corridors as they arrive each year by the thousands. But they are not students-they’re crickets. Although the crickets are annual fall visitors in Abilene, because of the extensive rainfall this year, residents can expect an even longer visitation from the winged insects, and ACU faculty and students are preparing for the duration.
“There are more crickets than people to deal with, so in that sense, it’s a struggle,” said Bob Nevill, director of physical resources. “I don’t know if it’s any worse than it has been in the past. It’s longer. The difference between a million crickets and 1,200,000 crickets is really not observable so much, but the difference between a month infestation and two months is very noticeable, so that’s what we’re aware of; that’s the pressure.” Nevill said Physical Resources is limited in its response to the problem. During the summer, lights around campus could be turned off to discourage the bugs, but when students arrived, safety concerns necessitated the lights stay on, making spraying insecticide and caulking cracks and holes in buildings the best of few remaining solutions.
“We don’t like to use pesticides too much because it’s an indiscriminate killer,” Nevill said. “It kills the beneficial insects as well as those we want to get rid of, so we have to be pretty careful about it.”
Nevill also cited allergies of some students and faculty to the chemicals used in insecticides as another deterrent to spraying, especially indoors. After spraying, additional issues are presented by the crickets’ decaying, odorous carcasses. In a few instances, the smell alone has been enough to drive faculty out of their offices until cleaning could be arranged, Nevill asserted, and as still more rainfall continues to drive crickets indoors, insects dying where they cannot be found or extricated unearths fresh concerns.
“I can hear them in the walls,” said Jessica Williams, freshman undeclared major from Atlanta and Gardner resident. “They’re in the building, they’re in the walls, and that’s not really doing anything to me, but it’s going to make things smell eventually.”
Williams and her roommate have been cleaning dead crickets, killing new arrivals and clogging cracks in the walls, ceiling and beside windows since they moved in almost three weeks ago.
“A few would come in the room at a time,” Williams said as another rogue insect crept behind her desk. “We didn’t have a day without a cricket. There were at least three or four everyday, but it wasn’t a real issue. Once we clogged the crack where they were falling out of the ceiling, we didn’t really notice them that bad again until it rained.”
Following last week’s rain showers, a new influx of bugs arrived in Williams’s room. With so many overrunning the area, the two
girls could not seem to kill them fast enough.
“I just wanted to get it fixed because this is my room,” Williams said. “I need to study. I need to sleep. I’ve had to sleep in one of my other friend’s room for three nights now because so many of them will come in. That kind of stinks. You’re just now getting to make this place your home, and then you don’t want to live here because there are crickets everywhere.”
Williams and her roommate have e-mailed Physical Resources and talked to Gardner officials about the problem but so far have been left to their own devices for debugging their room.
“We kill them, we trap them, we do whatever we can,” Williams said. “We really need someone to come in here and help. We
use Target bags to plug some of the cracks-we obviously don’t know what we’re supposed to do.”
For students facing cricket issues, manager for the Registrar’s Office Jennifer Hines advised stuffing towels under doors and simply being prepared to kill them. Nevill also recommended glue traps, which would enable students to dispose of crickets effortlessly while still avoiding having them die within dorm walls.
Taking a broader approach, biology professor Dr. (Qiang) John Xu, who has worked to develop methods of pest control in the past, proposed examining the environment in addition to purchasing safe chemicals for dorm use. Xu suggested the introduction of more natural predators of crickets in the area but stressed the simultaneous need for ecological balance.
“We need to control crickets, but they are a creation of God,” Xu said. “They were created by God, and they also have their roles in the biological environment, so if you kill all the crickets, it will cause other problems. We do not want them to go everywhere like [they do] now, but we still need to maintain enough crickets because they play an important role in the ecosystem.”
No one building on campus is more affected by the crickets than another, Nevill assured, and he emphasized Physical Resources’ desire to help students and faculty wherever possible.
Despite the constant struggle crickets inspire to maintain a clean campus, employees of Physical Resources are to be applauded, according to Hines, who said work in the Registrar’s Office is occasionally disrupted by the bugs.
“They’ve done a really good job of keeping on top of it, I think, when they can,” Hines said. “They’re the ones that come and vacuum [the crickets] for us, so they’ve been very helpful.”