Millions of Mormon crickets are marching in the Idaho desert
Nicole Blanchard, Idaho Statesman
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BOISE (Idaho Statesman) – For weeks, the U.S. has been bugging out over Brood X, the massive hatch of cicadas swarming on the East Coast after 17 years underground.
Idaho won’t see any cicada swarms, but a Boise woman’s recent videos showing a different insect infestation have drawn a lot of interest.
On May 19, Becky Parkinson shared a trio of videos on Facebook showing thousands of Mormon crickets, a species of large katydid native to Idaho, hopping across the Southwest Idaho desert.
“Not to gross anyone out, but the Mormon crickets are a plague in the Owyhees right now. Millions of them!” she wrote in a May 19 Facebook post.
Thousands of the bugs scuttle across a dirt road in one video, and swarm over rocks and float through water in another. Parkinson said one video was filmed on the road between Oreana and Jordan Valley, while the other was shot near Spencer Reservoir, about 50 miles southwest of Kuna.
Two of the videos were shared on Twitter, where they garnered hundreds of likes and retweets.
Parkinson said she’s never seen anything quite like the mass of Mormon crickets this year, although they’re a regular occurrence in Idaho and across the West.
“There have been other hatches in the past few years, but I had never seen them that high up in May, nor in that quantity,” Parkinson wrote in a Facebook message to the Statesman. “… I drove the road most of the way to Jordan Valley and they were not constant the whole way. Maybe 10 miles wide, then a break and then another big swath of them.”
Parkinson said swarms were especially thick near the reservoir and other water sources, like the stream in her video.
“On Spencer Reservoir, they were on each other’s backs four feet out from the edge of the water,” Parkinson said.
Paul Castrovillo, an entomologist with the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, said it’s not yet clear whether this year’s Mormon cricket population is larger than in years past. Some years, like in 2017, they can be found in huge groups. People tend to notice when the bugs destroy crops or cover roads, creating a slick surface as they’re crushed under car tires.
“They go through cycles,” Castrovillo said. “They might go for two, three, five years where people hardly notice them at all. They’re out there in lower numbers, mostly out in the range area. … People notice them when they start to cross highways in big numbers or crawl all over buildings.”
Castrovillo said it’s not clear what triggers an unusually large hatch. The Mormon cricket population can also vary in different parts of the state at different times, as their hatches depend on temperature. Typically they emerge first in Owyhees, where temperatures are warmer, and continue hatching into the summer at higher elevations.