Mormon crickets are back for another summer, creating nuisances for some Nevadans. The Nevada Department of Agriculture says the Mormon cricket population is not expected to be too high, this year, but they are seeing infestations in northern Pershing County and southern Humboldt County, in rural areas around Winnemucca.
Tori Apperson lives in Grass Valley. She's seen a few of the insects around her neighborhood, but came across a large swarm, Wednesday, along Herschell Road.
"There were hundreds of them, everywhere, and now they seem to be gone again," Apperson said. "They were all over a friend of ours, down the streets house and now about two hours later, we come back and they're gone, so they come and they go and they come and they go."
Mormon crickets can travel about a mile each day. They do not fly but they do climb. They do not bite, carry disease or pose a threat to animals that eat them. They do present some public safety issues on roads though.
"They're cannibalistic, so if one gets squished, the others come and eat it and they get squished," Jeff Knight, State Entomologist for the NDA said. "There's been reports that that alone can make the roads slick but if that happens and then we have a thunder shower, then the roads can get really slick from the dead crickets."
The NDA is encouraging people to report Mormon cricket infestations so that can get a head-start on controlling next year's populations. Knight says eggs usually hatch in the early spring and that the grasshopper-like insects are already laying eggs. Since Nevada has so much land, the only way to target Mormon crickets is for people to report where they see them.
"If we know where they're at, then we can have a map for next year that will really help us figure out what we can do and what we can't do," Knight said.
NDA will use airplanes to spray some areas. They will use ground bait in others but they are only allowed to treat state and public lands. Private property owners can take their own precautions, including installing plastic barriers and ground bait.
"If the crickets are coming off of public land, we will treat the public land both around crops and areas that might be inspected by crickets in other ways," Knight said.
Knight says Mormon crickets are found from the Rockies to the Sierra in the western United States, and they have caused sporadic problems in Nevada since the early 1930s.
"They develop in high numbers, usually in the foothills and in the mountain areas, and then they move down in large numbers, often into the valley floor," Knight said.
Knight says the largest infestations usually happen about once every 10 years.
"It can be in a sorts, biblical," Knight said. "We get crickets, the high numbers are 20-25 per square yard when they're larger. When they're small, we'll get several hundred per square yard."
Knight says the higher populations might have something to do with weather patterns, saying the largest populations of Mormon crickets tend to happen at the end of a drought.
"In following years, the crickets will get bigger and bigger because of a lack of predators and parasites and things like that," Knight said.
Knight says the NDA has not received reports of Mormon cricket infestations in Lovelock, Battle Mountain or Elko. That is good news for the people who live in those areas.
"They're pretty nasty-looking creatures so I can understand why people want to get rid of them," Knight said.
"These are black, ugly-looking things and they're just gross and they smash and then they eat each other. It's terrible," Apperson said.