Many Utahns are familiar with the species Anabrus simplex, though they may not know it by that name. According to folklore associated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in the spring of 1848 these little critters attacked newly planted crops that were vital for the survival of Mormon settlers.
Miraculously, a flock of gulls appeared and devoured the invaders, saving the settlers’ crop and forever labeling the pests Mormon crickets.
“Most of the population where you’ll see them is in rangeland, sagebrush-steppe kind of areas," said Dr. Ricardo Ramirez, a professor and extension specialist with Utah State University. "And it’s when those resources kind of dry down and you have those large populations, then they’ll move into more cropping systems.”
Residents in southern Idaho and northern Utah have reported a possible uptick in the population sizes of Mormon crickets in some areas this summer. However, Dr. Ramirez says the populations are still relatively quite low.
“It isn’t that Mormon crickets aren’t around, they’re always around, right? It’s just the population levels that we actually observe them at.”
Although populations may be growing, Dr. Ramirez is not prepared to predict that the insects will become crop pests anytime soon.
“Right now we’re seeing a few populations that are spiking," he said. "Maybe more than normal in the area, but it’s hard to predict right now what will happen, even next year, and whether or not this will persist as a population that then continues on to be a larger population.”
We will just have to wait and see.