ELKO — Mormon crickets were on the march in smaller numbers across Nevada this summer as predicted, experts said.
State entomologist Jeff Knight estimated 750,000 acres were affected by crickets this year, down from about 1 million acres last summer.
He thinks natural controls such as predators, parasites and diseases contributed to the drop.
Most of the activity was in Elko County, with hot spots in Tuscarora, Independence Valley, Owyhee and Mountain City.
Knight said he couldn’t yet estimate how many acres were affected in Elko County, but said the state would do surveys later.
“It’s probably equal (levels) or even down just a little bit,” Knight told the Elko Daily Free Press.
The infestation began in Nevada about eight years ago and peaked in 2005, when about 12 million acres were affected.
Growing up to 2 inches long as adults, Mormon crickets swarm in groups thousands strong, gobbling lawns, gardens and crops. When starved for salt and protein, they can eat each other.
Some Mormon crickets always are present in Nevada, but the latest infestation has been somewhat epic in scale, experts said.
Cricket infestations normally last from two to three years, and this is probably the longest in the past 50 or 60 years, they said.
Officials believe drought conditions helped start the infestation. However, Knight said insects go through cycles, and “a lot of times we have no idea what causes those ups and downs.”
Knight does not have any projections yet for next year’s numbers of the insect made infamous by nearly destroying the crops of Utah’s Mormon settlers in 1848.