Elko, Nevada battling biblical invasion as crickets overrun town

Elko, Nevada, is under siege as blood-red crickets, known as Mormon crickets, invade the town in massive numbers.
Abdul-Rahman Oladimeji Bello
Cricket Infestation
Cricket infestation

amnat jomjun/iStock  

Elko, Nevada, faces a real-life horror movie scenario as the town experiences a massive invasion of blood-red crickets. These imposing insects, known as Mormon crickets, are not directly harmful to people, but their presence is causing chaos and distress for the residents.

Mormon crickets, scientifically known as Anabrus simplex, are relatively large flightless insects native to the western half of North America. Despite their name, they are not true crickets but belong to the group of katydids, or bush crickets.

Typically, a new batch of crickets hatches from eggs laid in the soil every year. They then form groups and migrate across the region, devouring vegetation along the way. However, this year, the crickets have reached the towns and cities, including Elko, causing concern among the residents.

Infestation is like a biblical plague, residents say.

Describing the situation as almost "like a biblical plague," resident Dana Dolan compared the invasion to a gory crash scene. Pest control experts estimate that millions of crickets have likely descended upon Elko this summer.

Elko, Nevada battling biblical invasion as crickets overrun town
Mormon Cricket

The unusual timing of this year's invasion can be attributed to the delayed hatching of the eggs. Normally, the eggs hatch in the spring, but the wet conditions experienced in Northern Nevada over the winter and spring have caused a delay. Additionally, a recent drought in the area may have prompted the hatching.

While these blood-red bugs are not directly harmful to humans, they emit a repugnant odor and are opportunistic cannibals. If squashed by humans or vehicles, they can trigger swarms of their kin to engage in an impromptu feeding frenzy, creating a nightmarish sight.

The presence of these crickets has led to hospitals and busy businesses assigning employees to ward off the insects using brooms, leaf blowers, and anything else at hand, although with limited success.

Residents of Elko have resorted to various methods to combat the invasion. Some have used brooms, leaf blowers, pressure washers, and even snow plows to get rid of the crickets, but they keep coming back. State officials have erected signs warning drivers of slick highways as the insects gather there and feast on their deceased companions.

Videos and photos shared on social media depict swarms of these blood-red bugs blanketing highways, lawns, and even walls of homes in the area. Charles Carmichael, an owner of Battle Born Pest Control, likened the situation to the movie "The Birds," except with crickets. He estimated that the crickets outnumber the town's population by about 75 to one.

Despite their large size, these crickets can still find their way into homes through crawl spaces, air vents, ducts, or by hitching a ride on clothing. Carmichael advises using poisoned bait to lure the crickets away from their homes. If they do make it inside, bug repellent can be used to deter them.

This invasion of Mormon crickets is not unprecedented in size but is unusual due to its timing. The eggs, usually hatching in the spring, experienced a delayed birth this year. Entomologist Jeff Knight explains that these crickets mate and lay new eggs each year, with some remaining dormant in the soil for up to 11 years.

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