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ST. GEORGE — In the summer before the current pandemic, southern Utah was dealing with another plague: Grasshoppers.
A grasshopper invasion that was mainly inflicted on the Las Vegas area bled into southern Utah in the summer of 2019, peaking in July. Many residents will remember getting to their cars to see the hoppity insects all over their windshields during the day and fluttering all over streetlights at night. Walking on a lawn had the creatures popping out like popcorn in hot oil.
At the time, scientists didn't really have an answer to the insect invasion. But now, a new study has a peer-reviewed theory: It was all about the light.
The study, led by the University of Oklahoma's Department of Biology, said the reason for the grasshopper explosion was two-fold: an abundance of vegetation in the Nevada/Utah area from a wetter-than-usual winter in late 2018/early 2019; and the lights of Las Vegas acting as a beacon drawing the grasshoppers throughout the southwest deserts like a moth to lamplight.
St. George News spoke with the study's lead author, Elske Tielens, an insect ecologist at the university, who said the lights of Las Vegas had bled off into Mesquite and St. George.