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MV’s entomologist on orchestra of crickets

Bhavya Vemulapalli, Why we don’t need to be worried by Melbourne’s swarms of black crickets, 16 February 2024

Airline passengers arriving into Melbourne ahead of a big weekend for Taylor Swift fans received a rather unusual welcome from thousands of noisy crickets.

“We have had some crickets take up residence in the airport over the past few days,” one Melbourne Airport spokesperson quipped. Crickets are attracted to bright lights, they explained – and Melbourne Airport has quite a few.

“The crickets are harmless and, while we are working with pest control, we do expect that they will start to disappear as the weather changes,” the spokesperson added.

Melburnians across the city took to social media to share images of the insect invasion blanketing suburbs.

Swarms of black field crickets were reported in areas including Heidelberg, Thornbury, North Melbourne and Fitzroy, sending baffled residents into a panic after intense storms on Monday and Tuesday.

“Weather conditions have been perfect for them to be able to breed.”
“Weather conditions have been perfect for them to be able to breed. CREDIT:3AW.

“We had one somehow get into our bedroom last night. After we’d already put him outside a few hours earlier,” one Reddit user wrote.

“It spent half the night chirping and drove me bonkers.”

Museums Victoria Research Institute entomologist Dr Ken Walker told The Age that large populations of insects could be traced back to conditions last winter and perfect, warmer weather now.

“The very first thing to say is there should be no panic, there should be nothing to worry about because it’s a native Australian insect,” he said.

Museums Victoria entomologist Dr Ken Walker.
Museums Victoria entomologist Dr Ken Walker. CREDIT: DARRIAN TRAYNOR.

“We haven’t had any high 40-[degree day] to dry everything out, and all the vegetation has remained nice and lush for these crickets to be able to eat.”

Monash University’s Dr Scarlett Howard, a biologist, said: “Native crickets are an important part of the environment.

“While finding them in your home might be a shock, they are quite harmless,” she said.

Walker echoed that this was a natural occurrence with black field crickets – and they’d be all gone within about a month.

“It’s just that the weather conditions have been perfect for them to be able to breed.”

On Tuesday, a Reddit user wrote: “I am 100% afraid of crickets after finding some in my clothes.” Richmond train station was also covered in the insects, they reported.

Last week, similar scenes unfolded with invasive white butterflies.

Walker explained that while “we seem to live in isolation to nature”, crickets and other insects were attracted to bright lights meaning coexistence was inevitable.

The black field cricket is a native species.
The black field cricket is a native species.

“They’ll fly up to lights in high-rise buildings so that’s why people may find them coming indoors.” But crickets would not destroy walls or carpets, Walker emphasised.

“It’s an annual occurrence. And the size of the annual recurrence depends on the weather. The weather has been very kind to them.”

Walker mentioned that he also noticed cabbage white butterflies when he went for a walk on Thursday morning.

“It’s a great celebration. A lot of animals like birds will survive now … It’s a part of the natural lifecycle and nothing to be worried about.”

Howard said that crickets and other insects “have very important roles in human life and for ecosystem services”.

“Don’t panic and place the crickets outside if it’s safe to do so,” she said.