Small town swarmed by Mormon crickets; ‘It’s pretty disgusting’

May 14, 2024, 10:55 PM | Updated: May 15, 2024, 12:50 am

SPRING CREEK, Nev. — They’re not aggressive toward humans, and they don’t last forever, but they are gross and annoying.

Mormon crickets are a species of insect that has seen a resurgence in recent years due to drought and are out again this year in full force in northern Nevada and some parts of Utah. They got their nickname from the 1800s pioneer days when the bugs nearly destroyed the settlers’ crops in Utah, leading to the “Miracle of the Gulls” legend.

In Spring Creek, Nevada, Kyra Adams documented the crickets on TikTok. She said the last few years have been “disgusting.”

“It feels like you’re stepping on a frog or something,” Adams said. “You can feel their shell break.”

“They’ll jump on you, and they have little tiny, um I don’t even know, they feel like claws but they’re little grippers and when those get on your skin, it’s pretty disgusting,” she said.

“It smells like rotting, like a rotting smell,” and according to Adams, a smell that gets much worse as the weather gets hotter.

Aside from the sight, smell, and sound, these insects can also cause agricultural damage.

“They move in, and they decimate people’s crops,” Robert Houggard with the Utah Department of Agriculture said. According to him, the bugs can be a problem in large numbers.

“They’ll just eat the alfalfa down to nothing or eat the wheat down to nothing,” Houggard said.

He said they can destroy crops, but a large-scale outbreak in the Salt Lake Valley would be very rare because there is not much farmland there now.

That didn’t stop the crickets from chewing on anything they could find in the early 2000s, when a 2003 infestation attacked some 2.7 million acres of western Utah farms and desert.

“They were chewing on people’s wood siding on their homes,” Houggard said.

For Adams, even if they aren’t chewing on her home, they are surrounding it, she said, like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie.

“It literally feels like some end-times type of stuff,” she said.

Houggard said the crickets have 15-to-20-year cycles, and he says the department is dealing with some of them right now in Box Elder County and Jensen.

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Small town swarmed by Mormon crickets; ‘It’s pretty disgusting’