Can You Eat Mormon Crickets? Exploring Edible Insects

Mormon crickets are flightless, ground-dwelling insects native to the western United States. These insects are known for their voracious appetite, consuming a variety of plant matter, including native forbs, grasses, and cultivated forage crops1. Although crickets may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about edible insects, they are indeed a valuable source of nutrients.

Edible insects provide a number of nutritional benefits, such as providing essential amino acids, particularly lysine, threonine, and tryptophan2. Comparing them to traditional meat sources, insects can be a more sustainable and eco-friendly alternative. So, the question arises, can you eat Mormon crickets? The answer is yes, they can be consumed as a source of protein and other nutrients.

While the idea of eating Mormon crickets might seem unusual, they have been a food source for various species, including fish in Lodore Canyon3. Embracing the consumption of insects like these crickets could pave the way for new and innovative food industries, promoting a healthier and sustainable means of food production.

Mormon Crickets: An Overview

Anabrus Simplex: Biology and Characteristics

Mormon crickets, or Anabrus simplex, are a type of flightless, shield-backed katydid found in the Western United States1. They are known for their significant size, with males ranging from 3,400 to 4,100 mg4. Here are some key characteristics of Mormon crickets:

  • Flightless insects, despite having wings5
  • Distinct shield-backed appearance
  • Can eat their weight in food, including vegetation and other insects4

Historical Significance: Miracle of the Gulls

Mormon crickets have historical significance in Utah due to the “Miracle of the Gulls.” In 1848, Mormon settlers faced an outbreak of these crickets, which threatened their crops3. According to the story, seagulls suddenly arrived and consumed the cricket swarm, saving the settlers’ harvest. The event is considered a miracle and is part of Utah’s state folklore.

Range and Distribution: United States

Mormon crickets are found mainly in the Great Basin region, which includes parts of Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon, and the sagebrush-covered areas2 of the Western United States. Outbreaks occur in this region, with large swarms affecting agriculture and ecosystems6.

Region States Details
Great Basin Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, Oregon Sagebrush areas, Western United States

In conclusion, their particular biology, historical significance, and range make Mormon crickets an interesting topic to explore.

Diet and Nutritional Aspects

Feeding Habits and Food Sources

Mormon crickets, as well as other crickets and katydids, have diverse feeding habits. Their diet mainly includes vegetation, plant stems, leaves, and seeds1. Their food sources vary:

  • Grasses: They feed on various grasses and can damage them by consuming plant growth and seed production1.
  • Forbs: These are non-grass flowering plants that crickets may consume.
  • Shrubs: They might also feed on shrubs, affecting the growth of these plants.

Additionally, crickets can also eat invertebrates like insects and their eggs, even scavenging on road kills4.

Potential Nutrient Benefits for Humans

Crickets have been recognized as a potential protein source for human consumption5. Some of their nutritional benefits include:

  • Protein: They can provide more protein than the same amount of rice or beef5.
  • Iron: They contain higher levels of iron than that found in spinach5.
  • Other nutrients: Crickets also provide essential nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids5.

Here’s a comparison table of the nutritional benefits of crickets, rice, and beef:

Food Protein Iron Other Nutrients
Crickets High High Calcium, magnesium, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids
Rice Moderate Low Carbohydrates, B vitamins
Beef High Moderate B vitamins, zinc

The consumption of crickets, like other insect-based diets, has potential pros and cons:

Pros:

  • Environmentally friendly compared to livestock
  • Rich in essential nutrients

Cons:

  • Possible allergen
  • Cultural resistance to consuming insects

Impact on Agriculture and Natural Landscapes

Effects on Crops and Rangelands

Mormon crickets and grasshoppers are natural components of the rangeland ecosystem. However, when their populations reach outbreak levels, they can cause serious economic losses to agriculture, particularly in warm, dry conditions. For example, they can damage forage plants on rangelands and consume cultivated crops in their migration path, as stated by the USDA.

Impact on agriculture:

  • Economic losses due to crop consumption
  • Damage to rangelands, affecting livestock production

Swarms and Migration Patterns

Mormon cricket swarms can be quite large, causing both damage and disturbance to various landscapes. Outbreaks of these pests lead to en masse migrations, posing a threat to agriculture and natural ecosystems as they move in large numbers.

Characteristics of swarms:

  • Large populations migrating together
  • Devastating effects on natural and agricultural ecosystems
Pros of controlling swarms Cons of controlling swarms
Preservation of crops and rangelands Potential harm to non-target species
Mitigation of economic losses Cost of control measures and interventions

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides support to suppress these pest populations when necessary, helping to protect rangelands from significant damage.

Pest Control and Management Strategies

Threats

Mormon crickets, a flightless katydid species, can reach outbreak-level populations and cause damage to natural and agricultural ecosystems 1. These insects tend to move in large migratory bands consisting of millions or billions of individual insects 4. Their infestations can pose risks to crops and forage lands.

Mitigation Methods

Preventative measures and a combination of techniques should be used to suppress and manage Mormon cricket infestations:

  • Monitoring: Regular population monitoring can help detect outbreaks early and determine appropriate pest control actions 5.

  • Chemical Control: Pesticides such as carbaryl (Sevin) can be effective but pose environmental risks and potential harm to non-target predators.

  • Biological Control: Natural predators like birds, rodents, and insects can help manage Mormon cricket populations. Encouraging their presence can provide eco-friendly pest control.

  • Physical Control: Barriers like trenches, simple fencing, or sticky bands can be used to contain infestations or prevent their spread to sensitive areas.

  • Cultural Control: Reducing clutter and sealing potential hiding places in landscapes can limit the spread of infestations 3, as can managing vegetation in affected areas.

Below is a comparison table of the mitigation methods:

Method Pros Cons
Monitoring Early detection, targeted actions Requires time and resources
Chemical Control Effective, fast-acting Environmental risks, harm to natural predators
Biological Control Eco-friendly, sustainable Takes time to establish, less predictable
Physical Control Low-tech, low environmental impact Labor-intensive, limited scope
Cultural Control No chemical use, low environmental impact Limited effectiveness, requires maintenance

By employing these integrated pest management strategies, it is possible to control and minimize the damage caused by Mormon crickets while reducing the dependence on chemical pesticides.

Eating Mormon Crickets: Benefits and Caveats

Comparing Mormon Crickets with Other Insects as Food

Mormon crickets are an edible insect, like many others. Here’s a comparison table of nutritional values between crickets, mealworms, and grasshoppers:

Insect Protein Fat Fiber
Mormon Cricket 45-65% 25-30% 10-15%
Mealworm 48-54% 28-35% 5-11%
Grasshopper 20-30% 6-8% 2-3%

Benefits of consuming crickets include:

  • High protein content
  • Low-fat content
  • Rich in fiber

Safety Considerations

Mormon crickets can be eaten by humans, but there are safety concerns to keep in mind:

  • Exoskeleton: The hard exoskeleton of crickets can be difficult to chew and digest, especially for children and elderly people. It may cause skin irritations and discomfort.

  • Infection risk: Some crickets carry parasites that can be harmful to humans, especially when consumed raw or undercooked.

To minimize risks, follow these recommendations:

  • Cook crickets thoroughly to kill parasites
  • Remove exoskeletons before consuming

Potential Risks

Eating Mormon crickets may pose risks for some individuals:

  • Allergies: People allergic to shellfish may also be allergic to crickets due to their similar protein composition.

  • Aggressive behavior: Mormon crickets can be aggressive when disturbed. They may bite, resulting in minor injuries.

While there are benefits to consuming Mormon crickets, it is essential to consider the safety precautions and potential risks before indulging in this unique food source.

Footnotes

  1. https://extension.unr.edu/publication.aspx?PubID=2346 2 3 4 5

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8067469/ 2

  3. https://cwseducation.ucdavis.edu/class/36/mormon-crickets-food-source-species-lodore-canyon 2 3

  4. Washington State University – Mormon Crickets on the Move 2 3 4

  5. USDA Answers Frequently Asked Questions About Grasshoppers and Mormon Crickets 2 3 4 5 6

  6. USDA – Protecting U.S. Rangeland From Grasshoppers and Mormon Crickets

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject: Random bug in Colorado…
Location: Gunnison, CO
August 12, 2012 9:28 pm
Hey there we found this bug while doing some fishing near Gunnison Colorado wondering what it was. Wasn’t sure if it was alive so we snapped a pic and moved on leaving it be. Hope the picture helps.
Thanks!
Signature: J

Mormon Cricket

Dear J,
This appears to us to be a very well camouflaged Mormon Cricket.  Most Mormon Crickets pictured on the internet and in books are darker, almost black in color, but variations do occur.  The Sauntering Oregon blog has a nice photo of a Green Mormon Cricket and BugGuide has several images of Green Mormon Crickets.

Letter 2 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject: Grasshopper-looking insect
Location: Colorado
August 15, 2012 6:45 pm
Hi!
I was hiking up Mt Elbert, in Colorado, this morning (8/15/12) and came across this bug. We were about 1/2 a mile from the summit (about 14k feet). It was fairly large. I obnoxiously chased it with my camera and only slightly annoyed it (it moved just a little out of my way).
Sorry I didn’t get in a good perspective for this bug’s size.
Signature: Paige

Mormon Cricket

Hi Paige,
This large, flightless Katydid is commonly called a Mormon Cricket.  When conditions are right, they can appear in great numbers, eating most things in their path.  Legend has it that when the Mormons first settled in Utah, a swarm of Mormon Crickets descended upon the crops threatening to wipe out the harvest.  A flock of seagulls appeared and devoured the Mormon Crickets, saving the crops.  Mormon Crickets are generally depicted as being black, but green individuals are not uncommon.

Letter 3 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject: Cricket or grasshopper?
Location: Colorado front range between 5000 and 7000 feet
July 6, 2013 10:41 am
We recently found thousands of these in the foothills in southern colorado. None of the locals have ever seen these before. At night they climb the walls of buildings and come to the ground around mid-morning. They make a sort of buzzing noise.
Signature: Greg

Mormon Cricket
Mormon Cricket

Dear Greg,
This appears to be a Mormon Cricket,
Anabrus simplex, which you may compare to an image posted to BugGuide.  Despite its common name, the Mormon Cricket is actually a Shieldbacked Katydid and not a true Cricket.  According to BugGuide:  “Though flightless, this species can form agriculturally destructive “bands” (swarms)” and “Common name refers to invasion of agricultural lands farmed by Mormon settlers in the Great Salt Lake Basin in the 19th century, especially an outbreak in 1848.”  The Mormon Cricket is variable in coloration.  Many old texts depict black individuals, but they may also be brown or green.    

Letter 4 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject: HUGE Green Insect
Location: Near Mt. Spokane, WA
August 19, 2013 8:14 am
Hello, we found this very large bug on our property near Mt. Spokane State Park in Washington State. I think one of the boys found it in our water bucket for bees. I’ve combed through websites and pictures and I’m still unable to identify this thing. We are intrigued by its color and size. It is several inches long with ovipositor, as you can see it on his forearm/palm and shoulder. Thank you for any help you are able to offer
Signature: Kamian

Mormon Cricket
Mormon Cricket

Hi Kamian,
This is a Mormon Cricket,
Anabrus simplex, or another member of the genus like Anabrus cerciata, and it is highly variable in coloration.  Some specimens are nearly black.  Mormon Crickets are not true crickets.  They are Shieldbacked Katydids.  See BugGuide for additional information.

Letter 5 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject:  What is this bug?
Geographic location of the bug:  Rocky Mountains, Colorado
Date: 08/12/2018
Time: 04:48 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I saw a lot of these bugs while hiking a 14,000+ elevation mountain. They seemed to only be above treeline. The photo was taken in August.
How you want your letter signed:  Jennifer

Mormon Cricket

Dear Jennifer,
This is the third posting we have made this week of a Mormon Cricket sighting.  The first was a male that was part of a swarm in Nevada and the second a solitary female in Idaho.  The ovipositor indicates your individual is also a female.  According to BugGuide:  “Though flightless, this species can form migratory swarms or ‘bands’ that travel on foot, eating almost anything (both plant and sometimes small animal) in their paths, and have been significantly destructive to rangeland and crops at times. Swarming occurs primarily in the Wyoming Basin, Colorado Plateaus, Great Basin, and Columbia Plateau. In the Sierras, Rockies, and other higher mountain areas, and on the northern Great Plains, individuals average smaller, are usually non-migratory, and coloring is commonly of lighter colors (often tan or green). Individuals in bands are most commonly of a deep brown, often nearly black color.”  Can you estimate the numbers?

Thank you! There seemed to be a lot! Just about every few steps I took, there were two to three hopping across or resting on the trail. We heard what sounded like crickets, and by the sounds, there were hundreds!

Letter 6 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject:  large emerald grasshopper?beetle?
Geographic location of the bug:  crested butte co
Date: 10/06/2019
Time: 08:17 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  thanks for your help! i saw several of these in the mountains above crested butte-they were about 2″ across
How you want your letter signed:  kris

Mormon Cricket

Dear Chris,
Though it is commonly called a Mormon Cricket, your insect is actually a large, flightless Katydid. According to BugGuide:  “Though flightless, this species can form migratory swarms or “bands” that travel on foot, eating almost anything (both plant and sometimes small animal) in their paths, and have been significantly destructive to rangeland and crops at times. Swarming occurs primarily in the Wyoming Basin, Colorado Plateaus, Great Basin, and Columbia Plateau. In the Sierras, Rockies, and other higher mountain areas, and on the northern Great Plains, individuals average smaller, are usually non-migratory, and coloring is commonly of lighter colors (often tan or green). Individuals in bands are most commonly of a deep brown, often nearly black color.”   The ovipositor indicates your individual is a female.

hank you so much!  what a treat to learn the name of this katydid!
cheers!
chris

Letter 7 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject:  Grasshopper or Cricket?
Geographic location of the bug:  Vantage (WA), Ginkgo Petrified Forest
Date: 10/26/2019
Time: 12:46 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Do you have any idea what it is? It looks like a cricket, but I could not found it with Google.Best regards, Nils
How you want your letter signed:  Nils B.

Mormon Cricket

Dear Nils,
Though it is commonly called a Mormon Cricket, Anabrus simplex is actually a Shield-Backed Katydid.  Though they are flightless, in some years they are quite common and they form swarms along the ground in search of food.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.  Your individual is also a female as evidenced by her ovipositor.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject: Random bug in Colorado…
Location: Gunnison, CO
August 12, 2012 9:28 pm
Hey there we found this bug while doing some fishing near Gunnison Colorado wondering what it was. Wasn’t sure if it was alive so we snapped a pic and moved on leaving it be. Hope the picture helps.
Thanks!
Signature: J

Mormon Cricket

Dear J,
This appears to us to be a very well camouflaged Mormon Cricket.  Most Mormon Crickets pictured on the internet and in books are darker, almost black in color, but variations do occur.  The Sauntering Oregon blog has a nice photo of a Green Mormon Cricket and BugGuide has several images of Green Mormon Crickets.

Letter 2 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject: Grasshopper-looking insect
Location: Colorado
August 15, 2012 6:45 pm
Hi!
I was hiking up Mt Elbert, in Colorado, this morning (8/15/12) and came across this bug. We were about 1/2 a mile from the summit (about 14k feet). It was fairly large. I obnoxiously chased it with my camera and only slightly annoyed it (it moved just a little out of my way).
Sorry I didn’t get in a good perspective for this bug’s size.
Signature: Paige

Mormon Cricket

Hi Paige,
This large, flightless Katydid is commonly called a Mormon Cricket.  When conditions are right, they can appear in great numbers, eating most things in their path.  Legend has it that when the Mormons first settled in Utah, a swarm of Mormon Crickets descended upon the crops threatening to wipe out the harvest.  A flock of seagulls appeared and devoured the Mormon Crickets, saving the crops.  Mormon Crickets are generally depicted as being black, but green individuals are not uncommon.

Letter 3 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject: Cricket or grasshopper?
Location: Colorado front range between 5000 and 7000 feet
July 6, 2013 10:41 am
We recently found thousands of these in the foothills in southern colorado. None of the locals have ever seen these before. At night they climb the walls of buildings and come to the ground around mid-morning. They make a sort of buzzing noise.
Signature: Greg

Mormon Cricket
Mormon Cricket

Dear Greg,
This appears to be a Mormon Cricket,
Anabrus simplex, which you may compare to an image posted to BugGuide.  Despite its common name, the Mormon Cricket is actually a Shieldbacked Katydid and not a true Cricket.  According to BugGuide:  “Though flightless, this species can form agriculturally destructive “bands” (swarms)” and “Common name refers to invasion of agricultural lands farmed by Mormon settlers in the Great Salt Lake Basin in the 19th century, especially an outbreak in 1848.”  The Mormon Cricket is variable in coloration.  Many old texts depict black individuals, but they may also be brown or green.    

Letter 4 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject: HUGE Green Insect
Location: Near Mt. Spokane, WA
August 19, 2013 8:14 am
Hello, we found this very large bug on our property near Mt. Spokane State Park in Washington State. I think one of the boys found it in our water bucket for bees. I’ve combed through websites and pictures and I’m still unable to identify this thing. We are intrigued by its color and size. It is several inches long with ovipositor, as you can see it on his forearm/palm and shoulder. Thank you for any help you are able to offer
Signature: Kamian

Mormon Cricket
Mormon Cricket

Hi Kamian,
This is a Mormon Cricket,
Anabrus simplex, or another member of the genus like Anabrus cerciata, and it is highly variable in coloration.  Some specimens are nearly black.  Mormon Crickets are not true crickets.  They are Shieldbacked Katydids.  See BugGuide for additional information.

Letter 5 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject:  What is this bug?
Geographic location of the bug:  Rocky Mountains, Colorado
Date: 08/12/2018
Time: 04:48 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  I saw a lot of these bugs while hiking a 14,000+ elevation mountain. They seemed to only be above treeline. The photo was taken in August.
How you want your letter signed:  Jennifer

Mormon Cricket

Dear Jennifer,
This is the third posting we have made this week of a Mormon Cricket sighting.  The first was a male that was part of a swarm in Nevada and the second a solitary female in Idaho.  The ovipositor indicates your individual is also a female.  According to BugGuide:  “Though flightless, this species can form migratory swarms or ‘bands’ that travel on foot, eating almost anything (both plant and sometimes small animal) in their paths, and have been significantly destructive to rangeland and crops at times. Swarming occurs primarily in the Wyoming Basin, Colorado Plateaus, Great Basin, and Columbia Plateau. In the Sierras, Rockies, and other higher mountain areas, and on the northern Great Plains, individuals average smaller, are usually non-migratory, and coloring is commonly of lighter colors (often tan or green). Individuals in bands are most commonly of a deep brown, often nearly black color.”  Can you estimate the numbers?

Thank you! There seemed to be a lot! Just about every few steps I took, there were two to three hopping across or resting on the trail. We heard what sounded like crickets, and by the sounds, there were hundreds!

Letter 6 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject:  large emerald grasshopper?beetle?
Geographic location of the bug:  crested butte co
Date: 10/06/2019
Time: 08:17 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  thanks for your help! i saw several of these in the mountains above crested butte-they were about 2″ across
How you want your letter signed:  kris

Mormon Cricket

Dear Chris,
Though it is commonly called a Mormon Cricket, your insect is actually a large, flightless Katydid. According to BugGuide:  “Though flightless, this species can form migratory swarms or “bands” that travel on foot, eating almost anything (both plant and sometimes small animal) in their paths, and have been significantly destructive to rangeland and crops at times. Swarming occurs primarily in the Wyoming Basin, Colorado Plateaus, Great Basin, and Columbia Plateau. In the Sierras, Rockies, and other higher mountain areas, and on the northern Great Plains, individuals average smaller, are usually non-migratory, and coloring is commonly of lighter colors (often tan or green). Individuals in bands are most commonly of a deep brown, often nearly black color.”   The ovipositor indicates your individual is a female.

hank you so much!  what a treat to learn the name of this katydid!
cheers!
chris

Letter 7 – Mormon Cricket

 

Subject:  Grasshopper or Cricket?
Geographic location of the bug:  Vantage (WA), Ginkgo Petrified Forest
Date: 10/26/2019
Time: 12:46 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Do you have any idea what it is? It looks like a cricket, but I could not found it with Google.Best regards, Nils
How you want your letter signed:  Nils B.

Mormon Cricket

Dear Nils,
Though it is commonly called a Mormon Cricket, Anabrus simplex is actually a Shield-Backed Katydid.  Though they are flightless, in some years they are quite common and they form swarms along the ground in search of food.  Here is a BugGuide image for comparison.  Your individual is also a female as evidenced by her ovipositor.

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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