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IDAHO `MAKING HEADWAY’ IN BATTLE AGAINST CRICKETS

SHARE IDAHO `MAKING HEADWAY’ IN BATTLE AGAINST CRICKETS

Aerial spraying is under way in the battle against swarming Mormon crickets in southeastern Idaho, and officials believe they are making some headway.

"We're seeing some pretty good results already," Caribou National Forest District Ranger Frank Gunnell said. "We feel like we've killed some, but we certainly don't have them under control yet."Contractors hired by the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service have already covered over 33,000 acres in Franklin and Oneida counties with insecticide, and the attack is expected to eventually cost $60,000.

"We're not trying to eradicate them," Forest Service spokeswoman Jennifer Callan said. "We're trying to bring the populations down to a manageable level."

Gunnell said the spraying has killed some of the crickets, but "we certainly don't have them under control yet."

The crickets move in destructive bands, and about 25 bands have been spotted so far in the region that is in its fourth year of drought, stripping vegetation in their path and putting grain farmers at risk of losing a crop.

"There's quite a bit of crop damage," said Franklin County extension agent Wayne Cole.

Gov. Cecil Andrus declared the counties disaster areas late last month, opening the way for state and federal assistance to combat the insects.

The emphasis has been on curbing the existing infestations, but officials are also wary of further problems this fall or next spring from the eggs being laid now.

A cool, damp fall would preclude a hatch that could be devastating for the 1991 winter wheat crop, and similar conditions next spring could limit any serious recurrence of the cricket problem next year.