Officials Brace for Mormon Cricket Invasion

An adult Mormon cricket.
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State officials are gearing up for their annual battle against a pesky insect that prompted a state of emergency in one Nevada county last year: the Mormon cricket.

Nevada Agriculture Department officials will brief the public about plans to fight the insects at a series of meetings set to begin Tuesday in Reno and end Feb. 11 in Elko.

Last year, the crickets devoured sagebrush, alfalfa and vegetables across 6 million acres of Nevada - one of the biggest such bug invasions since World War II.

"We're planning on at least what we had last year," Jeff Knight, a department entomologist, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "We'll just have to see."

Unlike last year, officials are armed with a substantial budget to wage this year's battle. Congress has earmarked $6.7 million to fight the insects in Nevada, money officials hope can be spread over the next five years.

This year, $1.4 million is budgeted for the battle - more than three times more than last year. Some of the money also might be used against grasshoppers.

A series of warm, dry winters has caused cricket numbers to explode across a wide swath of Nevada.

At the public meetings, officials will discuss plans to spray federal land in Nevada with the pesticides Malathion or Dimilin.

The poison bait Carbaryl, which is spread on the ground to kill adult crickets, also is expected to be used.

Mother Nature also could assist in the battle. This winter's heavy precipitation in Elko could help limit the size of the cricket invasion there, Knight said.

Last year, the infestation was so bad that Elko County commissioners declared a state of emergency after the insects devoured plant life and made roads dangerously slick.

Residents say living with them can be miserable as the 2 1/2-inch-long creeping insects attack lawns, gardens and even the siding of houses.

The Mormon cricket got its name in 1848 when swarms invaded fields of Mormon settlers in Utah.

Other meetings will be held Wednesday in Eureka and Ely, Feb. 9 in Lovelock and Winnemucca, and Feb. 10 in Battle Mountain and Pilot Valley.