Mormon crickets can be quite the nuisance, especially when they swarm in large numbers. These flightless insects are native to the western United States and can cause significant damage to rangelands, crops, and native vegetation. Controlling their population is essential for maintaining healthy ecosystems and minimizing their adverse effects on agriculture.
Various strategies and methods can help to effectively manage Mormon cricket populations. These can include habitat manipulation, biological controls, and the use of insecticides. In the following sections, we’ll delve into these techniques and discuss how each one can contribute to eradicating these troublesome insects from your area.
When dealing with Mormon crickets, it’s crucial to assess the situation first and choose the most suitable approach. Implementing a mix of these strategies may be the most effective way to keep their populations under control and prevent them from causing more harm.
Understanding Mormon Crickets
Appearance and Characteristics
Mormon crickets (Anabrus simplex) are not actually crickets, but a type of shield-backed katydid. They’re large insects with the following features:
- Adults: 3-7cm in length
- Can be black, brown, red, or green in color
The most distinguishable characteristics of Mormon crickets include:
- Long antennae, often longer than their body
- Females have a long, curved ovipositor (egg-laying structure) at their rear
- Stout, cylindrical body
The life cycle of Mormon crickets includes the following stages:
- Eggs: laid in the soil, overwinter, and hatch in the spring
- Nymphs: immature crickets, resemble small adults without the ovipositor
- Adults: fully grown and sexually mature, live for about 2-3 months
The process from egg to adult takes about 60-90 days, depending on environmental conditions, such as temperature and food availability.
Mormon crickets are known for their expansive migrations. Key aspects of their behavior include:
- Form large, mobile bands of tens of thousands to millions
- Can travel up to 2km per day
- Damage forage plants on rangelands and cultivated crops during migration
Table 1. Comparison between Mormon crickets and house crickets
|Feature||Mormon Cricket||House Cricket|
|Classification||Shield-backed katydid||True cricket|
|Size||3-7 cm||1.6-2.1 cm|
|Diet||Omnivorous, plants, fungi, scavenging||Omnivorous, prefer plant material|
|Chirping||Mostly silent||Distinctive chirping|
|Migration||Large-scale, long-distance||Rarely migrate|
Damage Caused by Mormon Crickets
Agriculture and Crops
Mormon crickets can cause significant damage to agriculture and crops. These insects are known to devour plants and can have a devastating impact on farmers’ livelihoods. For instance, large swarms of Mormon crickets can:
- Strip fields of valuable crops such as alfalfa, corn, and wheat
- Damage rangeland grasses, reducing the forage availability for livestock
Although they are closely related to grasshoppers, Mormon crickets are flightless insects that travel in migratory bands and can cover vast distances in search of food. As a result, they can quickly invade and destroy large areas of agricultural land.
Mormon crickets can also pose problems in urban areas, where they can:
- Invade homes and gardens, damaging plants, lawns, and shrubbery
- Be a nuisance in public spaces, making outdoor activities unpleasant with their presence
Moreover, swarms of these crickets can also create traffic hazards due to their slippery bodies, causing accidents when drivers swerve to avoid them or lose control due to the slick conditions.
To protect urban areas from Mormon cricket infestations, homeowners can:
- Install window screens to keep the insects out of houses
- Secure gardens and compost piles with barriers to prevent access
- Clear any potential cricket habitat around homes, such as tall grasses and dense shrubs
In both agricultural and urban settings, research continues to develop more efficient methods of controlling Mormon cricket populations and reducing the damage they cause.
Preventing and Controlling Infestations
Natural Predators and Solutions
Mormon crickets, native to western North America, can cause significant damage to grasses and crops in their habitat. To control infestations, it’s crucial to know about their natural enemies. Some of their predators include:
- Birds, such as crows and the California gull
- Rodents, like mice and rats
- Large insects, like grasshoppers and other crickets
- Coyotes and other mammals
For example, in Salt Lake County, the California gull helps control the cricket populations. Integrating predatory species like chickens and nematodes in your backyard may also help reduce infestations.
Insecticides can serve as efficient solutions to control Mormon cricket populations. Some commonly used chemicals include:
- Diatomaceous earth
- Dish soap
- Boric acid
However, it’s essential to consider the pros and cons of using insecticides:
- Effective in reducing cricket populations
- Can target specific insects
- May cause harm to non-target species
- Potential environmental impact
Creating physical barriers can help prevent Mormon crickets from entering your home and garden. Consider these strategies:
- Seal entry points: Ensure gutters and drains are clean, caulk openings, and close gaps around windows and doors.
- Remove food sources: Keep trash cans tightly sealed, and don’t leave pet food outdoors.
- Outdoor lighting: Switch to less-attractive lighting options for crickets, such as yellow or sodium vapor bulbs.
- Smooth barriers: Place smooth materials around garden beds and crops, making it difficult for crickets to climb.
Implementing these prevention methods is crucial for controlling Mormon cricket infestations while balancing the safety of the environment and non-target species.
Historical and Cultural Context
Miracle of the Gulls
In 1848, Mormon settlers in the Great Salt Lake Basin faced a devastating infestation of Mormon crickets, threatening their crops and livelihoods. As a miraculous event, thousands of California gulls arrived and began consuming the crickets, dramatically reducing their numbers and saving the settlers’ crops. This event is known as the Miracle of the Gulls, and it remains a significant part of Utah’s history.
Mormon Cricket Research
Modern research has provided more insight into Mormon cricket behavior and potential control methods. Mormon crickets are known for their cannibalistic behavior and ability to cause severe infestations that can result in widespread damage to crops and vegetation.
- Food source: These crickets eat plants, fungi, invertebrates, and other crickets.
- Protein: When given a protein-rich diet, they slow their movement and increase their survival.
Mormon cricket research has helped develop control strategies that include baiting, habitat modification, and chemical control. This understanding can aid in managing and preventing future infestations of these pests.
|Baiting||Requires proper placement and timing|
|Habitat modification||Not always feasible or effective|
|Chemical control||May harm non-target organisms|
Despite the challenges associated with managing Mormon crickets, ongoing research and understanding can help reduce their impact on agriculture and the environment.
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 Crickets crossing the road in Nevada
Subject: Weird bug migration
Geographic location of the bug: Toiyabe national forest
Time: 12:54 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: I was driving my big rig through Nevada when i saw hundreds of these guys all over the road and dirt. I’m curious as to what they’re doing? Are they actually migrating?
How you want your letter signed: Curious trucker
Dear Curious trucker,
This is a Mormon Cricket, a species found in the western states and there are periodic population explosions. According to KTVN.com in an updated July 2, 2018 post: “Mormon crickets are back for another summer, creating nuisances for some Nevadans. The Nevada Department of Agriculture says the Mormon cricket population is not expected to be too high, this year, but they are seeing infestations in northern Pershing County and southern Humboldt County, in rural areas around Winnemucca. … Mormon crickets can travel about a mile each day. They do not fly but they do climb. They do not bite, carry disease or pose a threat to animals that eat them. They do present some public safety issues on roads though. ‘They’re cannibalistic, so if one gets squished, the others come and eat it and they get squished,’ Jeff Knight, State Entomologist for the NDA said. ‘There’s been reports that that alone can make the roads slick but if that happens and then we have a thunder shower, then the roads can get really slick from the dead crickets.’ … ‘They develop in high numbers, usually in the foothills and in the mountain areas, and then they move down in large numbers, often into the valley floor,’ Knight said. Knight says the largest infestations usually happen about once every 10 years.”
Letter 2 – Mormon Crickets
Mormon Cricket Eating A Grasshopper
Mon, Oct 13, 2008 at 4:37 PM
Here’s a photo of a Mormon Cricket eating grasshopper roadkill. It was on a dirt road in the mountains of Southern Idaho. It might work into Bug Carnage…
Also include a side shot of a Mormon Cricket on the same road.
Congrats on the site redesign!
Mountain Home, Idaho, USA
Your photos are both positively gorgeous. Mormon Crickets are omnivorous feeders. They are credited with destroying crops, but they will also cannibalize one another if there is no other food. That dead grasshopper was just too appealing to be passed by. Your profile shot shows the impressive swordlike ovipositor of the female Mormon Cricket. For clarification, our Unnecessary Carnage section is reserved for the deliberate killing of insects by people for no apparent reason. Thanks for the compliment on our new site design.
Letter 3 – Mormon Cricket or close relative
Good Photo of Mormon Cricket
Hi again. I just emailed you some pictures of craneflies and now I’m sending along a picture of a Mormon Cricket I took last year while visiting Idaho. Your site is fantastic for identifying bugs. I did know what kind of cricket this was because a local told me when I took the photo. I wish I had put something down to show the scale, however, I do believe it will be one of the better photos you have of it.
Ajax, ON CANADA (just east of Toronto)
Sorry for the delay but we had DSL problems (no signal). As we had never seen a Mormon Cricket with such a light coloration, we inquired as to Eric Eaton’s opinion. Here is his response: “Mormon crickets come in a variety of colors, but it could also be something related. Sorry to be non-commital, but sometimes photos just aren’t enough. Eric “
Letter 4 – Mormon Cricket
Bug on Trail in Jackson Hole
September 3, 2009
Hi! I saw this bug sitting on the trail in Jackson Hole, WY on the Cascade Canyon Trail. Bug was not alarmed at my approach. It did not fly away, but crawled (I wanted to be sure it did not get stepped on!)
Jackson Hole, WY
This is a Shield Backed Katydid, most likely a Mormon Cricket, Anabrus simplex, which can be compared to individuals on BugGuide. Your specimen is a female as evidenced by the swordlike ovipositor.
Update from Eric Eaton
September 6, 2009
The mormon cricket is pretty easy, plus this was “their year” apparently with lots of posts popping up in Bugguide from the Rocky Mountain states and Pacific Northwest.
Letter 5 – Shieldback Katydid, not Mormon Cricket
Morman cricket maybe
Location: outside of Pine, AZ USA
August 16, 2010 10:50 pm
Hey I was hiking in the pines around the mogollon rim near Pine, AZ USA. Between 4000 and 5000 feet above sea level. Found this one under a rock. About an inch and a half long. Figure its some type of katydid but not too sure.
Jeremy in AZ
Based on BugGuide imagery, we believe you are correct that this is a Mormon Cricket, Anabrus simplex, or at least one of the Shieldbacked Katydids in the family Tettigoniinae. The long swordlike ovipositor indicates she is a female. We will verify this identification with Katydid expert Piotr Naskrecki.
Piotr Naskrecki makes a Correction
September 20, 2010
Please forgive this late reply, I only got back from remote forests of Suriname a few days ago.
The katydid in the photo is not a mormon cricket. It is a related shield-back katydid, almost certainly of the genus Eremopedes. Not sure of the species – it resembles E. balli, but the ovipositor is a bit too long.
Piotr Naskrecki, Ph. D.
Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University
Letter 6 – Mormon Cricket
Cricket? in a field in the Grand Tetons
Location: Grand Tetons National Park
October 12, 2010 10:36 pm
I ran into this odd cricket while photographing wildlife in the Grand Tetons National Park. Found a dead one first being feasted on by a grasshopper, then ran into a second one about 20 feet further along the path.
Camel cricket? Mormon cricket?
We believe that you have correctly identified the Mormon Cricket, Anabrus simplex, one of the Shieldbacked Katydids, but we will try to get the expert opinion of Piotr Naskrecki to verify that.
Piotr Naskrecki provides confirmation
The chubbier individual with a shorter pronotum is indeed the Mormon cricket (Anabrus simplex)… .