It has been years since they last traveled through Nevada, those visitors that flock to our arid desert, covering the roads and traveling in large numbers. Some call them a nuisance. Others aren’t sure what to call them. They come, slowly but surely, and wherever they go, the land isn’t quite the same when they’re gone.
We’re talking, of course, about Mormon crickets, pests that got their name from the 1848 “miracle of the gulls” in Utah, when seagulls ate thousands of the insects that were devouring the Mormon pioneers’ first harvest. Nevada got no such miracle from 2000-2008, when a Mormon cricket infestation affected at least 12 million acres. (One notable account had them scaling the walls of a hospital and causing hazards for motorists because of the wet, squishy mess on the asphalt.)
Last month, state officials discovered the insects—they are, in fact, katydids, not crickets—around a small town in northwestern Nevada, and while they don’t pose a serious safety concern at the moment, consider this: Their numbers tend to increase in times of extreme drought.
And one more thing: Mormon crickets will decimate any vegetation in their path, and if they run out of food, they will eat each other. Where’s a trusty seagull when you need one?