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Cycles of grasshoppers and Mormon crickets are overlapping — and they'll start to eat Utah

Morgan grasshoppers
Posted at 4:22 PM, Jul 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-06 19:22:07-04

MORGAN, Utah — Bruce Clark barely got a barley crop in when the grasshoppers hit.

"They’ve done their damage," he said, standing in a field of stubby grains where the insects ravaged it.

Utah's Department of Agriculture and Food is getting reports of both grasshopper and Mormon cricket infestations all over the state.

"We see a six-to-eight year cycle with grasshoppers, we see a 20-year cycle with Mormon crickets," said state entimologist Kristopher Watson. "And what we’re kind of seeing is them starting to come together."

It couldn't come at a worse time with Utah's ongoing drought emergency.

"Just their natural cycle for one, but also the drought may have a significant on the increases of populations as well," Watson said in an interview with FOX 13. "When we have big winter years with lots of precipitation, long, drawn out springs, it creates fungus die-back to aphids and die-back to actual populations. With this drought they’re probably doing all that much better."

Watson said it's not the five or 10 that show up in your back yard in the summer, but upwards of 100 grasshoppers per square yard over acres and acres of land. They follow moisture, eating their way through crops.

"Now, we’re starting to see 10,000 or 20,000-infested acres of grasshoppers," he said.

Mormon crickets have been known to ravage crops, eat paint off of houses and create driving hazards when there are enough of them covering the roads.

So far, grasshopper and Mormon cricket outbreaks have been reported in Sanpete, Sevier, Millard, Juab, Uintah, Duchesne, Box Elder and Morgan counties. Last year, Mormon crickets were spotted in Beaver County and agriculture officials arranged to have farm lands sprayed.

It's grasshoppers that are really prevalent this year, and Watson warned that with their cycles — they'll get worse over the next few years, before their populations naturally decline.

The Utah Dept. of Agriculture and Food does offer some assistance to farmers, but the state will not spray all lands for grasshoppers or cricket infestations. Watson pointed out that both insects do provide some benefits to Utah's range ecology and they have been here since before the state was founded.

"They’re here, they’re here to stay. We’re not looking to eradicate them, we’re just looking to help producers when they become problematic," he said.

Clark arranged for his some of his fields to be sprayed. He'd been avoiding tilling some fields to conserve water, but that apparently helps grasshoppers.

As a dairy farmer whose family has been working the land since 1890, he worried about how he'd find enough hay to feed his cattle since growing it wasn't happening now. That, in turn, will have an impact on Utah's food supply.

"It’s going to be a major impact this year. I’m just hoping the price of milk doesn’t go too high so consumers stop buying it or stay too low that we don’t make any money," Clark told FOX 13.