A Nevada town is faced with millions of stinking Mormon crickets

(Nevada Department of Transportation via The New York Times) A ​​photo provided by the Nevada Department of Transportation shows a huge group of Mormon crickets on a street in Elko, Nevada. Millions of Mormon crickets have arrived in Elko, and the spindly copper-colored creatures cover parts of the city; The crickets are so numerous that Nevada has begun plowing and grinding highways in the Elko area so motorists have better traction.

Millions of Mormon crickets have arrived in Elko, Nevada, the spindly coppery beasts that cover parts of the city. That’s why employees at the Shilo Inn Elko discussed ways to fight them on Saturday.

Hotel employees poured in a hot mixture of vinegar, bleach and dish soap.

They even turned pressure washers on the brown clusters of exoskeletons. Still, the nervous insects kept coming.

Finally, Shilo Inns general manager Kimmy Hall said of her overwhelmed staff, “We can’t win against them. But we can stop them.”

Such was the mood in Elko, a town of around 20,000, as it is infested with Mormon crickets that have recently hatched and are in the migratory phase.

Though the crickets have been roaming the area, about 300 miles northeast of Reno, for several years, this month millions are pouring over densely populated neighborhoods and busy roads. When vehicles drive over the crickets’ bodies – which burst easily like potato chips – their intestines spill out.

As more crickets are run over, thicker layers accumulate on the road, leaving behind a tough, clay-colored mix that can lead to slippery driving conditions, the Nevada Department of Transportation warned on Twitter.

The number and distribution of crickets on the road is so ubiquitous that the department uses plows to clean up the slimy brown debris.

Mormon crickets, which aren’t actually crickets but are shield-backed ungulates, are ground-dwelling insects native to the western United States. They feed on grasses, shrubs, and crops, which can contribute to soil erosion and nutrient-poor soils, according to the University of Nevada, Reno.

The Southwest is experiencing a severe drought that, according to the university, “favors Mormon cricket outbreaks” that last five to 21 years and “can cause significant economic losses to rangelands, croplands, and home gardens.”

The name Mormon crickets derives from how the insects entered the fields of Mormon settlers in Utah’s Great Salt Lake area around the mid-1800s, according to Washington State University. Males chirp like other crickets, “hence the incorrect common name,” the university said.

Mormon cricket numbers have surged since the 1990s, particularly in Nevada, the University of Nevada, Reno said. In 2006, Mormon crickets infested approximately 10 million acres in the state.

The crickets, which are about 2 inches long and have a rounded body, add a darker shade of red to brick homes, front yards, and beige sidewalks. Although they do not bite, they trigger squeamishness, especially in some new residents.

“It was crazy,” said Charles Carmichael, owner of Battle Born Pest Control. “It was wild. I haven’t sprayed so many homes for crickets in a long time.”

In suburban stucco houses, he has seen Mormon crickets crawling along the exterior walls, moving like aliens in a retro arcade game.

The crickets have devoured gardens, invaded homes, and somehow found their way into people’s backpacks and hair, prompting screams, Carmichael said.

He has limited weapons at his disposal. Many chemical cleaning agents do not work. The best he can do is erect smooth plastic fences around yards, as crickets cannot climb smooth surfaces.

Still, as Hall well knows, killing the crickets can produce stinky results: the remains smell like fish or dog poop.

“Just disgusting,” Hall said.

Chris Gomez, store manager for Big 5 Sporting Goods in Elko, said Mormon crickets had covered the sidewalk at the store and the entrance for the past few days. Most customers “get through it” and race in, he said. But not every.

“A couple of little kids were crying trying to get in,” Gomez said. “You know, they’re a little scared.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Justin Scaccy

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