Voracious Mormon crickets, their appetites apparently intact after eating their way through crops and rangeland in southern Utah, Idaho and Nevada, have shown up in Box Elder County.
The invasion, however, is on a small scale and doesn't pose much of a threat to northern Utah farmers and ranchers, said Utah State University extension agent Tom Reeves.Yet.
Reeves says he hopes residents will take the threat seriously, though, and make efforts to keep the cricket populations down.
"If they don't, then two years from now we're going to have some real problems," he said.
Residents have counted three or four of the inch-long black bugs per square yard in an 3-mile-by-3-mile area near Portage.
"They looked like giant ants," said resident Trina Gibbs. "It made me shudder just to watch them."
Gibbs said the crickets could be seen crossing an access road outside of Portage and were munching their way south. Except for the dead ones smashed by cars, she said she hasn't seen any trace of them since.
Reeve said the crickets looked almost like a "herd of cattle" where they congregated to cross the road. Once spread out, however, he said their numbers are much smaller in Box Elder County when compared to the 235 crickets found in each square yard counted in Juab County last month.
Even so, he said it is still enough to pose an economic threat if measures are not taken now to slow their growth.
He suggests ranchers and farmers take advantage of the Department of Agricultures baiting program, which makes available to them poisoned wheat at $14 a bag.
In areas where the bait was used, he said, crickets were "falling right and left."
Crickets, unlike the cousins the grasshoppers, don't destroy all vegetation. But 10 crickets per square yard in a 360-acre field will devour the same amount of food as 50 head of cattle, Reeve said.
He credits the cricket's has made a comeback after mild winters the past few years.
Now is the time to act, he said, because the insects haven't laid their eggs yet. Come July and August, the female Mormon cricket will bury up to 150 or more eggs about an inch below the ground.