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Grasshoppers are back! But not like before

Updated September 30, 2022 - 10:57 am

Tourists aren’t the only ones attracted to the bright lights of the Strip. Grasshoppers have flown into the Las Vegas Valley — not to gamble, but to nosh on vegetation brought by the summer’s late monsoon season.

Grasshoppers are native to the southwest desert and are a common sight, but wet summers bring excess vegetation growth, giving the grasshoppers a feast of a lifetime, according to UNLV life science professor Allen Gibbs. Once the grasshoppers ran out of fresh vegetation, he said, they flew to “the brightest place in the planet.”

“It’s late in the season for grasshoppers,” Gibbs said. “We had pretty heavy monsoons and the grasshoppers did very well, but it’s not going to be like 2019.”

Back in mid-July of 2019, more than 45 million insects invaded the valley. It was a time when street lights would draw hundreds of grasshoppers. Many locals captured videos of the insects covering the ground around highly lit areas on and near the Strip.

In the valley, the rain came in late summer instead of the usual spring rains that grasshoppers thrive in, Gibbs said. These eggs only hatch when it’s warm and typically in the springtime. This delayed and narrowed the grasshoppers’ time to produce multiple generations and grow their populations.

Female grasshoppers lay their eggs for the winter, and they don’t hatch until it gets warm again.

Typically when a grasshopper hatches, they go through five stages as an immature insect. At this stage, they can’t fly. This stage takes three weeks in hotter conditions, but up to four weeks if cooler. Once they reach their adult phase, they live for roughly a few weeks to a month, “Or until a bird eats them,” Gibbs said.

Once temperatures reach over 50 degrees in the spring, the grasshoppers are able to metabolize, which allows them to hop around and convert their food into energy, according to Gibbs.

“Their ability to do anything is tied to their body temperature,” he said. “Once it gets cold, you won’t see any grasshoppers.”

Gibbs believes the insects are completely harmless to the public, as they don’t bite humans or carry disease. Walking toward them forces them to disperse and they are difficult to catch, he said.

“They’re hard to catch, I’ve tried, they fly away,” Gibbs said. “I enjoy seeing them, I work on insects and the first ones I worked on were grasshoppers and I have a soft spot in my heart for them.”

Contact Jimmy Romo at jromo@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0350. Follow @jimi_writes on Twitter.

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