ELKO - It seems the Mormon cricket may have competition for being the most damaging insect in Elko County, according to information from the Nevada Department of Agriculture.
Jeff Knight, entomologist for the department, said although Mormon crickets are still present in northeastern Nevada, grasshoppers have proven to be more of a problem this year.
The clear-winged grasshopper in particular poses the greatest threat to vegetation because so many can cover a large acreage, and they can fly several miles a day, according to Knight.
Large concentrations of grasshoppers have appeared in Clover Valley, Boulder Valley, Argenta, north of Battle Mountain, Paradise Valley and Orovada.
These concentrations so far are largely on private lands, where management is chiefly up to the land owners. To show the potential threat posed by grasshoppers, Knight said Wyoming recently sprayed as much as 2.3 million acres of land. In the height of the Mormon cricket invasion, Knight said Nevada has sprayed up to 400,000 acres.
Knight said the cricket population may be down because of the weather conditions this spring, while grasshoppers usually hatch later. This year, Knight said hoppers hatched two to three weeks later than his office anticipated.
Population booms for hoppers usually happen every five to 10 years, with outbreaks every 15-20 years, according to Knight. In contrast, there was a dearth of Mormon crickets in the 1980s and 1990s, and when the crickets came back in force many people exaggerated how many there were.
"People kind of forgot about them," Knight said.
A few years ago, "cricket slicks" on roadways contributed to vehicle accidents, causing concern for rural travelers.
According to Randy Hesterlee, traffic engineer for the Nevada Department of Transportation, there have been no reports of major cricket slicks in Elko County. Hesterlee said there is a "small bunch" of crickets on State Route 278 south of Carlin.
Knight said his office will soon get a permit from the Bureau of Land Management to bait crickets near Orovada, which is an area of cricket concentration. Otherwise, the bands of crickets around the region have been small, and haven't raised much alarm. Other bands are found near Charleston, Big Creek and Argenta.
So far, the project near Orovada is the only location considered for baiting, as the department is trying to keep a natural approach to cricket management by allowing natural predators and parasites to kill and consume them. However, Knight said cricket bands that pose threats to private property, water sources and significant food sources for livestock will be considered for possible baiting.
"The range is really drying out, and they are moving to where it's green," Knight said.
The department is trying to track the movement of these bands.
"That way we have a good idea where to start next year," Knight said.
The public may report sightings of Mormon crickets by calling the state's entomology department at 775-353-3600, ext. 6.