by Morgan Cullen
When Jim Reed and I were in Austin, Texas last week to meet with legislators and staff in our roles as liaisons to the Texas Legislature for NCSL, we weren't the only visitors in the Capitol. A plague of crickets has invaded the statehouse. Over the past few weeks thousands of these unwanted guests have stormed the capitol complex, creating a buzz throughout the building and leaving members and staffers perplexed and irritated. Crickets have swarmed the Capitol in past summer months, but this year has been worse than most.
A combination of heavy rains and warm weather throughout central Texas have created a perfect nesting ground for cricket eggs and led to an abnormally large hatch this year. Over our three day trip to the Texas capitol we found crickets climbing on walls, crawling through hallways and hopping down staircases.
The capitol custodial crew has been vigilant about trying to get rid of them but their sheer numbers have made the task impossible. They simply continue to enter the building, hop around for a while and slowly begin dying off. The only thing more unpleasant than their presence is the smell they make when they begin to decompose. Kari Torres, a staffer for House Speaker Joe Straus, says that she keeps her feet elevated at her desk in fear that a cricket may start crawling up her leg. "The crickets are everywhere this year. I have found them in our printer and in my purse. One even fell from the ceiling and onto my desk. I can't wait for cricket season to end."
Fortunately, the cricket infestation should be over in a few more weeks. Some staffers see the crickets as just a minor nuisance, a small price to pay for the badly needed rain they got in the area. Folks in drought-stricken capitals across the rest of the country might be willing to welcome crickets if they came with some rain.
Photo credits: Kari Torres