The sound of silence will return to Redoubt Elementary School in Soldotna for the new year.
That will end a seven-year streak of crickets chirping their melodies.
Nobody can say for certain where or how the cricket infestation began. The consensus is they were purchased as an instructional aid either as food for pet reptiles or simply for students to study.
Dave Spence, Kenai Peninsula Borough operations director, said the problem isn't impossible to contain, and the best way to handle the crickets is to follow the borough's pest control policy already in place.
Following the plan, the faculty, custodial staff and students alike joined forces to vanquish the vermin. They placed sticky monitor traps to estimate how many crickets were present and diligently recorded cricket sightings.
Now, Spence said, it's time to move it up a notch, because simply vacuuming and maintaining cleanliness has not worked.
"Being the prolific little vermin they are, they've populated quite well," Spence said. "Its a problem, and luckily the crickets are not harmful but we need to get rid of them. We've tried all other means that the integrated pest management policy recommends. Now we're moving to pesticides, which should take care of it. The pesticide is not harmful to people, due to the short duration of toxicity and how it is targeted toward the pest."
Spence said the borough wants to get rid of the problem before the crickets breed themselves into permanency.
Dave Lease, chief technician at Paratex Pied Piper in Anchorage, will spray during the holiday break to end the cricket era. He is confident the school will be cricket-free by the time school starts up again in January.
"(The crickets) have multiplied pretty well in the environment. It sounds fairly heavy and may require more than one application. We will spray the base board areas around the perimeter using a residual insecticide especially labeled for crickets," Lease said.
Bill Kopecky of the borough's maintenance department has been helping with the problem.
"All we'll really do is move things away from the walls so it can be sprayed around the perimeter. They'll spray twice, seven or eight days apart to make sure to get a good kill," he said. "We should be able to knock them out quite easily."
There is no doubt this invasive and potentially ecologically-disastrous insect must be eradicated at the school. Yet, with the coming demise of the crickets goes some charm of the Midwest prairie. Principal Todd Syverson said getting rid of the crickets is bittersweet.
"In the evenings, it's kind of like sitting out on the plains of western North Dakota. It's kind of peaceful, but it's also time for them to go. We've been taking away the food source maintaining natural cleanup. But after the warm summer it became more than we could keep up with," Syverson said.
He also said the crickets have been an annoyance because of the interruption in the learning process, and the kids know the cricket jig is up.
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