Are Mormon crickets making a comeback in Nevada?


A bunch of Mormon crickets hang out on the Utah ranch of Brent Tanner. ( Brent Tanner)

Before we go any further, let’s take a beat and make sure you’re not eating lunch. Just put down the sandwich; this will only take a few minutes.

We good?

Cool. Because according to the Reno Gazette-Journal, the Mormon cricket might be making its return.

“It is more than we’ve found for the last several years,” Nevada’s state entomologist Jeff Knight told the newspaper. “We’ll have to see what happens.”

For those among us who are not super familiar with insects of the American West, Mormon crickets are bugs that seem to thrive in drought conditions, like that which has been seen in Nevada recently. They eat crops, garden vegetables and, well, other Mormon crickets — under the right circumstances. A fun fact about Mormon crickets is that they are not actually crickets. A not-fun fact about Mormon crickets is that they can be a bit problematic when they swarm.

We’re sure there are some good qualities to the Mormon cricket, whose name has a pretty interesting origin story, but right now we can’t get over the Gazette-Journal’s description of the last major infestation:

“In 2003, Elko County commissioners declared a state of emergency after the crickets invaded parts of Elko, crawling over the walls of a hospital and making roads unsafe with a slippery coating of crushed insects.”

Just to drive that home: the bugs were “crawling over the walls of a hospital and making roads unsafe with a slippery coating of crushed insects.” And that wasn’t even at the worst part of the infestation! Nope, that came a few years later, according to the paper, when about 12 million acres of the state were covered in Mormon crickets.

To get an idea of what one of these infestations looks like, here’s some nightmare fuel, courtesy of National Geographic. Sorry in advance:

 

Focusing on the positives, the change in the Mormon cricket population has not yet caused any real problems. The bugs are currently being spotted in a desert about 100 miles out of Reno, but officials are keeping an eye on the situation.

“They’re out in the middle of nowhere,” Knight told the Gazette-Journal. “They’re not impacting anything or anybody.”

Yet.

Sarah Larimer is a general assignment reporter for the Washington Post.
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