Attack of the Katydids

Mormon Cricket

Mormon Cricket
Photo: BLM

In the 1850s, Mormon settlers new to Utah described a plague of insects that were destroying their crops. The insects were given the name, “Mormon Crickets” and it has stuck for over a century even though the insects are not crickets or Mormon. Insect pest management specialists insist on calling them “Shield-backed Katydids” but that term has less penetration of the public lexicon than the term “entomologist”.

Residents of Arlington, Oregon are experiencing an outbreak, this summer (2017). The insects form clouds on the roads that can cause cars to lose traction. Drivers are encouraged to slow down if the road appears to move. My personal experience in driving through an insect swarm in Colorado resulted in a detour to a local car wash. The Shield-backed Katydids will enter homes through open doors, windows and garages. People who leave windows open at night may find a surprise the next morning. The insects are difficult to treat. Spraying the swarm in front of your house only works on those insects. The next day, they will be replaced as the swarm marches on. Some farmers cannot spray because they depend on bees to pollinate their alfalfa and other crops, creating a dilemma.  The potential economic damage to crops is real.  Other damage is largely aesthetic and ephemeral.

Fortunately, outbreaks do not occur every year and populations often crash due to increased disease transmission in dense populations. For now, the residents are miserable, but most insect plagues pass quickly.

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is a retired Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
This entry was posted in by jjneal, News, Pest Management. Bookmark the permalink.

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