Bug Blog

A Plague Of Insect Pests Return To A Small Town After A Long Absence

A Plague Of Insect Pests Return To A Small Town After A Long Absence

You don’t hear about insect or a group of insects infesting or taking over entire towns too often, but one town in the state of Oregon is experiencing a large-scale infestation of Mormon crickets. As a result of the recent infestation, the townspeople held a town meeting with state agriculture and Oregon State University Extension representatives in order to decide how to handle the infestation.

The Mormon crickets are neither Mormon nor crickets. Actually, these insects are relatives to the grasshopper, and they are referred to as shield-backed katydids. The “Mormon” part of this bug’s name was attributed to these katydids by early Mormon settlers that lived in the town. In the Salt Lake region within Utah, during the 1800s, these Mormon crickets descended upon the Mormon peoples crops, and eventually destroyed the crops. So the katydids already have a pretty bad reputation.

These katydids often destroy lawns, gardens, pastures and even farmland, as you just learned. These bugs cannot fly, but they average a full three inches in length. Mormon crickets also march in tight formations along with others of its kind, which is an interesting an unusual sight.

Residents are already angry to see that these Mormon crickets have returned after all these years. Some residents are spraying their own insecticides, and there is a lot of talk about burning trees in order to kill the katydid nests. Luckily, the OSU Extension agent has not recommended taking such action. Some visitors to the town are catching these katydids in order to sell them as fishing-bait.

The outbreak is reminding many residents of the similar, and more serious outbreak of Mormon crickets from 1942. During this time the Mormon crickets occupied a large stretch of highway 19 for several days, and eventual aerial insecticide spraying became necessary to rid the town of the unwelcome visitors.

Have you ever witnessed a particularly large swarm of insects travel alongside one another?