Cricket boom: Warm weather brings hopping visitors

March 3, 2024 BY

A long beach between Torquay and Breamlea appears to be lined with dead crickets. Photo: FACEBOOK

FAVOURABLE weather conditions have led to an influx of black field crickets in homes, gardens and on beaches across the region.

It follows similar booms in the population of cabbage white butterflies, also known as cabbage months, through the summer months.

Deakin University’s Associate Professor of zoology Philip Barton said black field crickets sometimes “swarm and gather” in very high numbers when the weather is warm and after rain.

“The end of summer is peak cricket time in southern Australia as this is when they have matured into adults and are mating, and the females are looking for somewhere to lay their eggs.

“The mild and wet spring and early summer with plenty of rain has meant soils have stayed damp which is great for their eggs to survive and hatch in large numbers.”

He said natural booms in insect populations occurred every few years and were the result of weather conditions in the preceding few months.

“These cycles can often align with broader shifts in climate brought around by El Niño and La Niña weather patterns.

“If we get future mild, warm, wet winters and springs then we can expect these insects (and maybe others) to boom in numbers again.

“Climate change is expected to produce a hotter and drier environment in the Bellarine and Surf Coast region, so these sorts of booms in insects will still happen from time to time but might become rarer.”

Community members have taken to social media to report significant numbers of dead crickets littering beaches along the Surf Coast and Bellarine Peninsula, with one individual suggesting a trail of crickets in Torquay extended at least 4km.

“The females tend to congregate in large groups looking for moist soil for their eggs,” Professor Barton said.

“The beach and dunes have attracted the crickets, and the wind [has] blown them down into the water, only to be washed up on the beach.”

He said cricket numbers were likely to remain high over the next couple of weeks until the females lay their eggs, and the population declines naturally into March.

The native species are active at night and typically hide under rocks or in cracks in the soil during the day.

They feed on dead plant matter, the remains of insects, as well as plants, which can make them a nuisance in pastures, cropped areas and suburban veggie gardens.

Professor Barton said the crickets were attracted to lights and those wishing to deter the crickets should turn off lights at night and remove any food waste or rubbish that the crickets might like to feed on.

“With population booms in insects, you sometimes see spiders increase too, which is nature’s way of keeping things in balance.

“Spiders are fantastic little predators that will eat butterflies and crickets, so I’d be on the lookout for possible increases in garden spiders (catching butterflies in webs) and wolf spiders (catching crickets on the ground) in your backyard and beyond.

“These spiders will keep to themselves if left alone and will do a great job eating insect pests.”