Crickets, worms released in two University of Georgia buildings

Two people arrested; incident followed recent Gaza protests on UGA campus.
Dozens of Pro-Palestinian protesters chant as they cross the University Arch at UGA campus in Athens following arrests on Monday, April 29, 2024.
(Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Credit: Miguel Martinez

Dozens of Pro-Palestinian protesters chant as they cross the University Arch at UGA campus in Athens following arrests on Monday, April 29, 2024. (Miguel Martinez / AJC)

ATHENS — A University of Georgia student and a recent graduate allegedly released crickets and worms last week in two buildings on campus.

Social media accounts credited pro-Palestinian activists for the stunt, weeks after Gaza protests briefly bubbled up at the state’s flagship public university.

Police charged two individuals with two counts of interference with government property and two counts of criminal trespass — damage to property in the latest incident. Each charge is a misdemeanor. Both were booked in the Athens-Clarke County jail last Friday and released Saturday on $104 bond, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

UGA police were dispatched around 2:38 p.m. last Friday after two individuals “dumped a bag of insects and sawdust” in the lobby of the Hodgson Oil Building, according to a case report. The building, adjacent to downtown and North Campus, houses the UGA Police Department, the Office of Emergency Preparedness and the Division of Marketing & Communications.

The responding police officer observed two individuals walking near the building that matched the description. The officer approached and noticed a cricket “crawl out of the bag” being carried by one of the individuals.

Both “admitted to being involved with dropping crickets and mealworms,” police said. While investigating, police became aware of a similar incident occurring at the Business Services Building, a short walk away from the Hodgson Oil Building.

Employees at the Business Services Building saw crickets on the second floor and observed two people “wandering about the office,” according to police. A police officer found egg cartons on the floor near the room where crickets were discovered.

Business services workers coordinated to remove the crickets, police said.

Both individuals have been barred from campus for two years. A university spokesperson declined to comment further on the status of the current student, citing Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act regarding Student Conduct policy matters.

The incident followed recent protests against Israel’s war in Gaza on college campuses around the country, including at UGA.

UGA and campus police didn’t share a motive for the incident involving the crickets and worms.

A social media post made hours after the incident Friday by the account “culture_workers_against_empire” said the release of “more than 500 crickets and super worms” was meant to disrupt UGA’s “daily operations until the war machine is halted and Palestinians are free.” The post had more than 9,000 likes and 200 comments as of Thursday afternoon.

Two other social media accounts, “Palestine Action US” and “Athens Against Cop City,” shared the original message online.

University police arrested 16 protesters, including nine students, on April 29 at a campus demonstration against Israel’s war in Gaza.

UGA suspended the arrested students, including at least two seniors, and banned them from campus. One of the seniors confirmed to the AJC that she wasn’t allowed to attend commencement earlier this month, despite more than 200 faculty members petitioning the administration to immediately lift the suspensions.

The university also suspended the campus organization “Students for Justice in Palestine” in the wake of the Gaza protests on campus. A spokesperson for the group said this week there was no connection between SJP and the incident involving crickets and worms.