Plague Of Crickets Brings Nuisance, Stink To Waco

Audie Cornish speaks with Scott Halvorson, manager of Drug Emporium, about the cricket problems he's having at his business in Waco, Texas, this year. Moist, mild conditions last winter have resulted in something resembling a cricket plague. Member station KWBU assisted with the sound for this story.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Right now the streets of Waco, Texas, well, they stink.

SCOTT HALVORSON: Well, the closest thing I can think of that it would smell like is a dead animal.

CORNISH: But it's not a dead squirrel or rats, it's dead insects. Crickets to be exact. And they're everywhere this year. Not just outside, but infesting shops and other buildings. Scott Halvorson, of the Drug Emporium in Waco, is one of the many store managers who are spending a lot of time clearing cricket carcasses. His tool of choice? A leaf blower.

HALVORSON: I used one this morning to get underneath the Coke machines in the front and then to blow them out. And then once you get outside to blow them off the walls and off around the light fixtures and off the sidewalk.

CORNISH: What have you been told about how this problem came about? Why it's worse this year?

HALVORSON: The reason it's worse this year than in years past, is because we had a really mild winter and so it didn't freeze them out like they have in the past. So right now, anytime we get a little bit of a rain, and this weekend we had right at five inches, that just really brought them out with a vengeance. And so they - yesterday and today, they were in full force, on the walls and everywhere.

CORNISH: What are you telling customers and do they notice? What do they say?

HALVORSON: They don't really notice because there's not an odor in the store. Because by the time they get here, we've got the storefront cleared. The very first customer or two that come in - I was talking to a lady earlier today, and whenever they first drive by, before too many cars come in the parking lot, it sounds like a car running over bubble wrap. Just by running over the bodies of the crickets that haven't been smashed yet or the birds haven't come up to pick up yet. We've got a huge population of grackles and black birds. Typically by about 8:00, 9:00 they come out and they start picking all the ones off the parking lot, as they're coming up to the stores. So they get them before they get to the store, but sometimes if they're late for some reason, it's an all-day event just keeping the sidewalk cleared.

CORNISH: Is this helping you develop some new found love for blackbirds?

HALVORSON: I didn't really care for them too much before, but they're my buddies now.

CORNISH: Do you have any sense of when this will end? I mean is this a particular season of crickets? Or what happens next?

HALVORSON: Usually the first good freeze we get is when it's over with. That's not anytime soon from what I've seen. It's probably going to go on through probably through November, I would imagine. And it'll be calm for a week or two and then we'll get a little rain and they'll be back again.

CORNISH: Well, Scott, thank you so much for talking with us.

HALVORSON: All right. Thank you.

CORNISH: Scott Halvorson manages Drug Emporium in Waco, Texas, and we want to say thanks to our member station, KWBU, for helping us out with the sound for this interview.

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