An Endemic Invasion of Mormon Crickets

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
Mormon crickets north of Mountain Home, ID on May 5, 2020.
(photo by Brad Stokes)

The spring of 2020 has been abnormal to say the least. Our community has experienced things that many generations have never seen before. We are learning and adapting every day. Unfortunately, there is one normal thing we can count on happening every year in Elmore County, the annual endemic invasion (or “hatching”) of the Morman cricket, Anabrus simplex.

The Mormon cricket is a large insect, with adult females measuring nearly 3 inches fully grown. They vary in color from a dull yellow-green to a brownish-black or even purple tone. It is native to the western United States and got its unusual common name from pioneers in the mid-1800’s who planted crops in the Salt Lake Valley. Subsequently there was a hatch of this native insect and due to the feeding and sheer numbers the settlers named them Mormon crickets, the common name thus stuck. Though they are called “crickets” they are in fact long-horned grasshoppers in the family Tettigoniidae (tet-i-gone-ee-i-dee). They are flightless insects that are voracious eaters of several plants including: crops, gardens, grasses, forbs, sagebrush and shrubs. Interestingly they also show cannibalistic behavior, possibly due to a protein or salt deficiency in their diet.

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