Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 July 2019

Noisy neighbours: the humble cricket is leaving UAE residents far from chirpy

Pest control companies report a surge in call-outs but the field cricket is completely harmless

The field cricket is harmless. Getty Images
The field cricket is harmless. Getty Images

Pest control companies have reported a surge in requests to deal with crickets.

A crescendo of chirping noises has filled the UAE over the past few weeks and the primary culprit is the humble - and completely harmless - field cricket.

Rentokil, a pest control company based in Dubai, said it has been receiving more than 20 calls a day in recent weeks to respond to crickets who have found their way into our homes, air-conditioning vents and lift shafts

It is believed that the mild winter and recent sharp rise in temperatures is, in part, responsible for the outbreak.

“It happens every four or five years,” said Dinesh Ramachandran, technical manager at Rentokil. “This current outbreak started a few weeks ago and we are getting three calls a day in each emirate. We usually get none.”

Gryllus bimaculatus – the cricket’s formal name – can jump, fly and crawl and they are common across the Middle East. They make their way into buildings through gaps in walls and doors. Rentokil has even responded to one incident of a field cricket on the 55th floor of a high rise and the noise disturbance is the main complaint.

Crickets sing by rubbing their wings together. The chirping noise is made by males to attract females and also warns other males to keep away as crickets are territorial.

“There are lots of call-outs to private homes,” said Mr Ramachandran. “The noise bounces and echoes in the air-conditioning vent and people say that it is an annoyance for them. Children are also afraid of the colour and appearance.”

But field crickets do not represent any threat human health, don’t spread disease and only pose a noise disturbance. Typically they can be found in grasslands, marshes, beaches and other areas and are omnivores, eating both plant and animal matter. They are distantly related to grasshoppers. Some grasshoppers, known as locusts, have also been known to occur in large swarms that can destroy crops.

it is just possible that optimal conditions are currently giving this species a little boost

Professor Brigitte Howarth

But it is important to note that field crickets are also an important part of the biodiversity in the country and are edible. A report by the UN even found that eating insects could help fight world hunger and reduce pollution as insect farming also produces far fewer greenhouse gases.

“These crickets are completely harmless and are, in fact, a species of gastronomic importance - they are edible,” said Brigitte Howarth, associate professor of biology and ecology at Zayed University.

Field crickets are also bred as a food source for pet shops and zoos, where they are fed to reptiles, amphibians and spiders, while some are even used for testing medical products

“Knowing that these poor crickets are fed alive to insectivores [a carnivorous plant or insect that eats insects] or broiled and fed to us, or experimented on, we may listen to their song with a little more compassion, and perhaps even a touch of melancholy,” said Dr Howarth.

And if a cricket does get into your room there is no reason to freak out. They do not breed indoors and will leave in a few weeks. People are advised to keep lights switched off at night as crickets are drawn to the light. Doors and windows should be closed and insect screens used if possible, while pest control companies can be used as a last resort.

“They can survive in all sorts of conditions and it is just possible that optimal conditions are currently giving this species a little boost,” said Dr Howarth.

“It should be noted that they will have a host of natural predators - all of which are being kept alive due to a steady supply of tasty crickets.”

Updated: June 27, 2019 04:38 PM

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