Residents of Elko, Nevada, saw an unusual number of Mormon crickets in June — enough to blanket buildings and cause a hazard on roads, KUTV reported.
Mormon crickets are large katydids, or bush crickets, that are found throughout many states of the western U.S. While normally solitary, the flightless insects sometimes gather in swarms to migrate.
KUTV’s TikTok account (@kutv2news) shared a video of the conditions in Elko in mid-June. In it, thousands and thousands of Mormon crickets swarm across the city. A resident is seen blowing the tiny invaders away with a leaf blower, while other bugs crawl up walls and across local roads.
“Is that a pile of dead ones right there?” asks a man in the video.
The video pans across an infested wall as another man answers, “They’re dead mixed with live ones, yeah.”
KUTV reports that these swarms happen semifrequently, but usually not in populated areas and in such massive numbers. Elko resident Colette Reynolds told KUTV, “Elko gets the migration through town annually but never anything like this. When we looked out our front door, the whole wall was just covered. That really, really freaked me out.”
What’s the problem with Mormon crickets?
Aside from the obvious yuck factor, a Mormon cricket swarm is bad news for farming communities. According to the USDA, swarms can destroy fields of crops, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage as the bugs eat everything green in their path.
Meanwhile, dead Mormon crickets cause a mess for local residents. At best, it’s a nuisance. But at worst, it’s dangerous; KUTV reports that the many crushed bugs on the roads create “slippery conditions” for drivers.
KUTV also says that scientists are unsure why the insects swarm like this. However, Jeff Knight, the Nevada state entomologist, told KUTV that what makes the behavior such a problem is that it’s happening in places where people live — and that’s humanity’s doing. “We’ve moved more and more into the native habitat of where these crickets normally occur,” he told KUTV.
The severe drought across the Southwest is also a factor in the Mormon cricket infestation, which can last several years, historically between five and 21 years, according to the University of Nevada at Reno. The state’s last outbreak was from 2000 to 2008, peaking in 2005, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
The Reno Gazette Journal explained in 2014 that droughts contribute to these outbreaks because “mild winters allow more eggs laid the previous summer to survive and hatch the next spring.”
Knight previously told the outlet that experts believe Mormon cricket eggs may lay dormant in the ground for a number of years, only to hatch during drought conditions.
As the Earth continues to overheat due to our reliance on dirty energy sources like coal, gas, and oil, which pump planet-warming gases into our atmosphere, drought conditions will likely become more common, setting the stage for future infestations.
What can residents do about Mormon cricket swarms?
Knight told KUTV that a pesticide is an option for killing the bugs, but generally all people need to do is wait for them to leave.
“Some people say they’ll move through in three to five days,” Reynolds told KUTV. “But for some reason, they’re really sticking around our house. I’m not sure why.”
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