This “Biblical” Insect Is Leading Farmers To Take Drastic Measures

( Mormon crickets are an invasive species of giant insects that can devastate crops. They are native to western North America but have spread to the U.S. West amid drought and warmer temperatures. In 2017, Oregon saw its largest Mormon cricket outbreak since the 1940s. The state legislature allocated $5 million to assess the problem and set up a “suppression” program for the insects.

Skye Krebs, a rancher, described the breakouts as “really biblical.”

“Once you kill one of them on the roadway, the rest will follow,” he added. Mormon crickets are cannibalistic and eat each other, whether living or dead if they are not fed enough nutrition.

Both Maley, an extension agent at Oregon State University, and Aamodt, a resident of the small town of Arlington located on the Columbia River, are actively participating in outreach and surveying initiatives related to Mormon crickets in the region.

The insects, shield-backed katydids and not real crickets, are flightless. Maley says they can traverse at least a quarter of a mile every day.

Aamodt tackled the 2017 epidemic using any means at her disposal.
She said she took out the lawnmower and began mowing and murdering them. She would use a straight hoe to stab them.

Aamodt has enlisted volunteers to combat the infestation, earning her the moniker “cricket queen.”

The state recommends chemical treatment if there are more than three Mormon crickets per square yard. Landowners can be reimbursed for up to 75% of the cost. In 2021 alone, Oregon agricultural officials estimate that grasshopper outbreaks damaged 10 million acres of rangeland. APHIS says it follows methods to reduce concerns. It instructs pesticide applicators to skip swaths and apply the insecticide at lower rates than the label. Environmental groups say the pesticides can be “toxic to a wide variety of insects” beyond grasshoppers and Mormon crickets, expressing particular concern for pollinators such as bees.

According to environmentalists, fewer grasshoppers mean a limited food source for the animals that eat them.

According to Sharon Selvaggio, the Xerces Society’s pesticide program specialist, “We’re quite worried about the impact of these broad, big applications to our grassland and rangeland ecosystems.”

Break out the hoes.