Crickets Thwart Texas University Tradition In Austin, the famous bell tower at the University of Texas is usually lit every night. In an attempt to reduce a cricket infestation, UT has decided to sacrifice a 70-year-old tradition: This past weekend, it turned off its famed tower's lights.

Crickets Thwart Texas University Tradition

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Even though it's summer, the University of Texas at Austin is swarming, not with students but with crickets. The situation has become particularly dire at the campus's most famous landmark, the UT Tower. In a peaceful attempt to get the crickets to move on, the university decided not to light the tower over this past weekend.

Here to tell us more is Laurie Lentz, who works with the university's facilities department. Welcome to DAY TO DAY, Laurie.

Ms. LAURIE LENTZ (Coordinator, Facilities Services Communications, University of Texas): Thank you.

COHEN: So just how bad is this cricket problem?

Ms. LENTZ: Well, the crickets are in record numbers. Folks around here are saying that they haven't seen anything quite like it right around campus in memory.

COHEN: How big are these guys?

Ms. LENTZ: Their bodies are anywhere from an inch to almost two inches long. Some of them are pretty big.

COHEN: But crickets don't sting. They don't bite. Is it just a huge nuisance or are they actually, you know, causing real problems?

Ms. LENTZ: The crickets in this large a number unfortunately do cause some problems, the main problem being an odor. Whether alive or dead, crickets in the quantities that we're seeing can be quite obnoxious.

COHEN: What is it smell like? I'm almost afraid to ask.

Ms. LENTZ: Well - oh, yes. I described it to one person as a common - something in between dead fish and bat guano.

(Soundbite of laughter)

COHEN: Nice.

Ms. LENTZ: Nice, very nice. And over time it has evolved into something pretty close to raw sewage.

COHEN: And so these crickets are drawn to the light, and so I gather there's been quite a few of them at the UT Tower?

Ms. LENTZ: That's correct. The white lights are very bright, and the crickets just think it's their ticket to cricket nirvana, so they head for the light.

COHEN: So you kept the tower dark this past weekend. How did that go?

Ms. LENTZ: The crickets are not gone. They haven't packed their bags yet. But they're greatly diminished from what they were last week.

COHEN: Laurie, have you ever thought maybe there's a whole other way to approach this? I know in Austin there was a problem with the bats that started to collect under the bridge there. After a while they thought, hey, let's make this a tourist attraction. And now that's one of Austin's biggest draws, is everyone comes out during the summer nights to watch all the bats fly out. Maybe you could just do that with the crickets, turn it into a tourist attraction.

Ms. LENTZ: Well, the problem with that is crickets - unlike bats - when you get in the midst of them, they will tend to jump on you. And people are not generally very excited about having crickets crawl up their pants legs or land in their hair. And you don't generally have that kind of problem with bats. Of course the bats kind of look like winged kittens, so they have a cuteness factor that the crickets don't have also. So I don't think...

COHEN: Not quite Jiminy Cricket that's hanging out there.

Ms. LENTZ: No. No, not really, especially after you've smelled the crickets, they lose their appeal.

COHEN: Laurie Lentz of the University of Texas. Thank you so much.

Ms. LENTZ: Thank you, Alex.

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