Work on the Stephenville High School track came to a screeching halt ó all because of one little bug that looks sort of like a huge flea.
And nobody knows when work can resume.
The insect is creating havoc and there doesnít seem to be a speedy solution forthcoming.
Regi Brackin, director of maintenance and operations for the Stephenville Independent School District, said he arrived one morning recently to inspect the track to find the construction company tearing out the resurfacing product they had just installed the day before.
The work crew told Brackin that upon their arrival at the site they saw hundreds of little mounds scattered throughout the newly laid polyurethane surface. No one had ever seen anything like it, but they knew their work was spoiled because holes would allow water to seep in and eventually crumble the new track surface. Brackin said there were probably 10 to 15 holes in a square foot but some spots were worse than others.
Brackin said the manager of the project had already contacted the groupís insurance company and insurance was going to cover damages. Brackin speculated the cost to be $30,000 to $40,000.
Brackin said probably one-fifth of the surface had been laid and disposing of a synthetic material like the one used is a large expense.
Brackin and others began searching for the culprit responsible for the destruction and found a black beetle-like insect probably about the same size as a nail on a little toe but nobody knew what it was.
Brackin trucked a zip lock bag full of the dead bugs to Texas A & M at College Station for help in identification and to see what exactly could be done.
Dr. Edward Riley, associate curator in the entomology department, recognized the insect as "hybosorus illigeri." He said the critter has no common name.
"It is a native old world species that has now established throughout the south," Riley said. "Larvae live in the soil. Adults are active at night and can occur in large numbers."
Riley said the insect is a member of the scarab family but is not associated with dung beetles. Like most scarabs, he said, this particular insect is designed for digging.
Riley said just before daybreak the insects burrow into the ground to hide and the females lay eggs there.
"This is a unique situation," Riley said.
He speculated that the insects found themselves trapped on the surface and said they werenít selectively looking for that particular surface.
Superintendent Dr. Darrell Floyd said they had tried to come up with a solution to enable work to continue but had failed. Floyd said the district learned if they covered the surface to keep the insects out or used an extermination spray it would interfere with the curing process of the resurfacing substance.
So what is the solution?
Wait them out.
Riley said the insects are not migratory but eventually they should taper off. With over a million insects to research, he said, he doesnít know a lot about this particular one and doesnít know the length of its life span .
Brackin said the construction company nor the manufacturing company has ever experienced this problem before, but if the district chooses to resume construction, it would be at risk of having to pay for damages should they occur.
Now, Brackinís job stinks.
He has to monitor the track at night when possible and when he is able to document a bug-free environment for several nights in a row heíll call the company to come back to work.
Some say it could be the end of July.