Crickets, and their mate, are the answer to Australia’s drought
Posted On July 18, 2021
Crickets are the most commonly used bird in Australia, with more than 10 million pairs breeding annually.
But as drought-hit farms have been hit by the devastating monsoon, the species has also been the subject of a new breed of disease.
Crickets are native to southern Australia, but are now found in the western states of Queensland and New South Wales, where they are not protected under state conservation laws.
They are not native to Queensland, however, so it’s not like they are banned in the state.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there, it’s all wrong,” Dr Dickson says.
Drought in the south has been blamed for an outbreak of the highly contagious Drosophila chytridiomycosis, which is now spreading rapidly across Australia, causing widespread disruption of crop production.
“[It is] affecting farmers across the state of Queensland, in Western Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and New Zealand,” he says.
“The number of confirmed cases is over 60 per cent higher than normal.”
The outbreak is also causing problems for farmers, with farmers reporting a rise in the number of livestock and poultry deaths in the past fortnight.
It’s also affecting the tourism industry, with the NSW Tourism Authority estimating the cost of the crisis could run into $1.5 billion.
Dr Dickson has been monitoring the population of crickets in NSW and Western Australia for the past few years, but is now warning of an imminent decline in the species.
“I’m seeing a dramatic increase in the numbers of cases across the northern and eastern states of New South Britain and the Kimberley,” he explains.
The crickets are very common in the eastern states, where farmers are struggling to get enough food for their cattle and sheep.
Dr Dinson says there is no cure for the disease, and that there are currently no vaccines or treatments available.
But he says he is encouraged by the number that are still being seen, and is confident they will be able to bounce back.
“We are seeing an increase in numbers, but we need to wait and see how it spreads, because there is not enough food to go around,” he said.
We are starting to see some recovery, but it will take a while to see the population stabilise and then recover.
I hope they will recover soon, because we need more people to come back.
You need people coming back, and it will be a very long recovery period.
What are crickets?
A common sight at Australia’s farmlands, crickets (pronounced CUT-eh) are a member of the crow family.
They were introduced to Australia by European settlers in the 1800s.
They are now known to be common in most of Western Australia.
They have long been regarded as pests in the region, but have recently been seen in more and more rural areas.
According to Dr Dinson, the population has increased by more than 100 per cent in just a few years.
Why are crumbs important?
A cricket is not a large animal, but rather, a small, winged, wingless bird that feeds on crumbs.
It eats these crumbs from the ground, or from trees, or even from the sky.
They then fly off and gather up the remaining food.
If the insects are not allowed to eat the food, it becomes a food source for the next generation of crumblings.
As the population increases, more crumbs are eaten, and more crickets become infected.
When the population is high enough, there is a chance that more crumbling is being lost to the virus, leading to more cases.
However, in NSW, it is thought the increase in crickets is mainly due to an increase of infected crickets being captured on film.
There are also reports of an increase, in some cases, in the amount of infected animals being taken for testing.
Is there any chance the disease will spread to humans?
There are currently about 150 known cases of Drosophonid chyriocytosis, with around 400 new cases reported annually.
These new cases have led to concerns that Drosophyllosis could be able, if left unchecked, to cause an epidemic in the community.
That is why Dr Dixon is now working to prevent the spread of the disease.
“There are no vaccines, no treatments, and we need a large number of people to get back to the farm and stop the spread, to stop the decline,” he warns.
Can we stop the disease?
Dr Dixon says it is not likely the disease would spread to the general population, but he is encouraging people to help prevent the virus from spreading.
“In the short term, the people who are infected are likely to die of the infection, so we need people to stop and see if they are viable and if they can get back and see their cattle, sheep and