Too many crickets on the hearth

Dust clings to the limp sassafras leaves, and in the lingering days of summer the woods cradling my house are void of most bird song. No longer do I awaken to the voices of the phoebe or other songbirds; instead the hours are filled with the droning of crickets. The hay fields and pastures are thick with scuttling crickets, and an occasional one leaps about the tall grass. I have no answer to why this year there is such a bountiful population of these fellows.

As an organic farmer, I have an appreciation for certain beneficial insects, yet I must battle other pests that threaten my crops. I was not the type of child who caught and collected bugs, and I prefer that all critters reside outside.

But my owner-built home has wider than average-size gaps beneath screen doors and windows, so a host of crickets has invaded. Most years a few slip in and their cozy chirping starts me lilting the fiddle tune "Cricket on the Hearth." The song reminds me that, over the years, others have lived with crickets in their kitchen. My cat thinks of them as wind-up toys and I find her cavorting as she leaps after the jumping pests.

But I am not at all pleased when I find crickets hiding in mixing bowls or behind jars in my pantry. Because I dislike the feel of them tickling my fingers if I carry one in my hands, I usually carry the bowl outside and let the rascal go.

This morning I found six crickets in my kitchen sink! Their fantastic jumping could not catapult them beyond the sink's slippery slopes. I looked about for something other than my hands to use to remove the beasties, and spied my son's barbecue tongs.

Deftly I picket up a cricket with the tongs and tossed him outside. I held a tidy solution to a ticklish problem. After several trips, the invaders were repositioned in their natural world.

More crickets will hide in my greenhouse or on the porch where they can survive the first frost. Their voices will mingle with my canaries' as they sing of the last sweet days of summer, but thanks to my son's tongs, I will keep my kitchen free of dancing crickets.

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