After devouring sagebrush, alfalfa and vegetables across a wide swath of northern Nevada this summer, swarms of Mormon crickets are finally dying off.
But as one of the region's worst such invasions in 60 years subsides, state officials are worried there could be a repeat next year if nature doesn't cooperate.
Nevada state entomologist Jeff Knight said the insects that marched across 6 million acres of Nevada have laid millions of eggs - a source of trouble if the region has yet another mild winter.
Mild winters and three years of drought provided ideal conditions for the insects, which hatch in the spring and feed through the summer.
Residents say living with them can be miserable as the 2 1/2-inch long creeping insects attack lawns, gardens and the siding of houses.
"It's extremely nerve-wracking," said Dale Hildebrandt, a resident of Red Rock north of Reno. "We've had people just move away for a month. They just couldn't and wouldn't handle it."
In Elko, community leaders declared a state of emergency in June after hordes of Mormon crickets made roads hazardously slick.
But Elko County Commission Chairman John Ellison said the problem appears over for now in the town 290 miles east of Reno.
He also is hoping for a long, hard winter to kill the cricket eggs and prevent a similar invasion next year.
"There's millions of them out there that laid eggs," Ellison said.
If nature doesn't cooperate, officials hope to launch a preventative spraying program larger than the one used to treat 60,000 acres near Reno and Winnemucca in May.
The spraying, financed by $400,000 in federal funds, targeted juvenile crickets and diminished the problem in both areas, Knight said.
The Mormon cricket got its name in 1848 when swarms invaded the fields of Mormon settlers in Utah.