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Mormon Crickets

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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

Like all gardeners these pioneers had their share of challenges. The most prominent was the invasion of the huge, grasshopper like creatures that even today are known as AMormon Crickets.@ These invaders stripped everything in their path and it looked as though everything would be lost. Through divine intervention the seagulls miraculously came and saved the crops.

For the past five years, the onslaught of Mormon Crickets and grasshoppers virtually wiped out crops and grass lands over millions of acres of Utah land – ½ million of it in Tooele County – gaining ground each year.

True to expectations, the hordes have hatched out again this year, and the invasion has spread. Crickets are hatching through most of the Stansbury (Mountain) Range and most of the foot hills in patches clear south through Beaver County.

Utah State University Extension coordinates control efforts across state, local, private and federal boundaries to help mitigate the impact. Extension disseminates control information through community meetings and the media and acts as a referral center for bait, pesticides and application equipment.

“To date nothing has been tried that these insects, nearly as large as grown mice, will not eat.” 1934 – A. Kilburn, County Agent

Grasshoppers are a threat to crops and rangeland across the West, but Utah always has had a special historical relationship with Mormon Crickets. Anabrus simplex has been known as a Mormon Cricket since 1848 when hordes of the insect started eating the early Mormon settlers’ much-needed crops.

When settlers prayed for help, an equal horde of seagulls descended and ate enough of the crickets to save the crops and possibly the lives of the pioneers. Ever since, the California gull has been Utah’s state bird and the ravenous cricket has taken on a religious nickname.

Homes are being built on land where grasshoppers and Mormon Crickets have been hatching and laying eggs for decades. The insects also migrate out of vacant fields and low hills into lawns and gardens.

Vacant lots and fields need to be tilled in late fall to expose the eggs which are destroyed when exposed to the cold. Lawns also can be raked to expose the eggs. Flower gardens should be turned over to expose the eggs during the winter. If there is an outbreak of the insects on your landscape during the summer, start spraying early. Once you see that grasshoppers and/or Mormon Crickets have invaded, even small ones, start spraying with Malathion or liquid Sevin (carbaryl) on turf, ornamentals and vegetables. Read and follow application instructions carefully. Over application can be dangerous to you and your neighbors.

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