Alan Neves, Deseret News
BEAVER COUNTY — A month ago, Utah farmers and ranchers were staring down an advancing horde of bugs. It was the biggest onslaught of Mormon crickets in eight years.
But an all-out air attack by state and federal agencies appears to have blunted, if not wiped out, the insect attack.
"It was the worst infestation we've had since 2004," said Greg Abbott with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. "We were afraid they were going to get away from us. We thought we were going to have crickets coming into Beaver and Manderfield."
A single Mormon cricket is not really a problem. But by the billions, they'll eat anything. Grass, crops, sagebrush — even laundry on the clothesline — are all fodder for their enormous appetites.
Many Utahns can remember previous cricket invasions so dense they made the ground appear to crawl. And that's what portions of central Utah were facing a few weeks ago.
USDA employee Curt Gentry drives out daily on an ATV to spread poison bait on the rangeland. It contains apple pulp to attract the crickets with a tempting scent and flavor. But within minutes of eating it, the crickets collapse and die. The goal of the effort is to protect ranches and farms from the crickets' voracious foraging.
"The farmers are very happy when we keep it away out of their hay fields," Gentry said. "Especially if it's been fresh planted. Like oats, for example. They're very tender and that's just like ice cream to the crickets."
The poison bait method is being used only on the margins of the infestation. The most effective battle tactic has been aerial spraying from crop-duster airplanes. During the past four weeks, federal and state agencies have sprayed about 56,000 acres hardest hit by the infestation in Millard and Beaver counties. As a result, Abbott said it's hard to find a live cricket in those areas now.
"It looks better, by far, than we thought it would," Abbott said.
The aerial spraying program has ended for now, but poison bait is still being used daily to make sure a new wave of hungry bugs doesn't break out and start marching across the landscape.
"So far it has been pretty good. We feel good about ourselves as far as wanting to be ahead of the game," Gentry said.
The kill also came before the female crickets laid their eggs, Gentry said. By knocking the invasion down early, the poisoning program may have taken the edge off of next year's onslaught.
- 2-year-old boy dies from accidental shooting...
- Tabernacle Choir performs Handel's 'Messiah'...
- Salt Lake City Marathon comes with many...
- Police make arrest in death of 59-year-old...
- Crowds to flock to Salt Lake City this weekend
- Western states to feds: Turn over public lands
- Man admits raping, killing young Ogden girl...
- Top 10 spring activities for Utah families
- LDS Church reaffirms stance on immigration 107
- Atheists, Mormon scholars talk religion 89
- At UVU, Elder Oaks sees hope despite... 77
- Utah, Oklahoma same-sex marriage cases... 47
- U., Ute Tribe reach agreement on... 38
- Appeals judges question right to sue in... 27
- Autopsies of 7 infants completed;... 24
- Texas seizes FLDS Church's secluded ranch 23