Businesses and residents in parts of Nevada, U.S. are struggling with an overwhelming influx of millions of Mormon crickets.
In the northeastern city of Elko, located approximately 225 miles (362 kilometers) south of the Idaho border, the insect onslaught began on Monday, June 12, 2023. Reports are surfacing of crickets blanketing roads, green spaces, and even the walls of local hospitals.
Steve Burrows, the director of community relations at Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital, recounted the intense effort required to maintain regular operations amid the insect onslaught. He told local KSL TV, “Just to get patients into the hospital we had people out there with leaf blowers, brooms, at one point we even had a tractor with a snowplow on it just to push the piles of crickets and move them on their way.”
Native to western North America, Mormon crickets undergo cyclical population explosions spanning several years.
According to the University of Nevada in Reno, Mormon crickets eat native, herbaceous perennials (forbs), grasses, shrubs, and cultivated forage crops, reducing feed for grazing wildlife and livestock. In large numbers, their feeding can contribute to soil erosion, poor water quality, nutrient-depleted soils, and potentially cause damage to range and cropland ecosystems.
Drought encourages Mormon cricket outbreaks, which may last several years (historically 5 to 21 years) and cause substantial economic losses to rangeland, cropland, and home gardens. This is particularly true as adults and nymphs of Mormon crickets migrate in a band, eating plants along their path.