Even though Mormon crickets threatened to eat farm and pasture owners out of house and home this summer in four areas of Utah, a Utah State University scientist says the ravenous insects' devastation appears to be on the decline.

"As far as Mormon crickets are concerned, we're on the downhill side," said Jay B. Karren, an entomology specialist at the university.Karren said the fact Utah had only four trouble spots this past year - when there have been as many as 30 to 40 areas blighted by heavy concentrations of the insect pest in some past years - signals the crickets' decline.

This summer, crickets infested Box Elder and Cache counties, the Goshute Indian Reservation on the Utah-Nevada border, Delta and Oak City in Millard County and the Dinosaur National Monument area near Vernal.

Federal and state employees spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of manhours fighting the crickets with insecticides, but the pests still managed to destroy thousands of acres of cropland and pasture.

Karren says a recently completed survey of the state shows nature and control measures have dealt the crickets a solid blow. Weather conditions play an important role in controlling Mormon crickets, he said.

"If this winter is particularly cold, eggs which the remaining crickets have laid may die. If it is a mild winter, the eggs will most likely hatch.

"We need to continuously monitor the cricket population next spring and use insecticides wherever the pests are seen in large numbers."

It is too late in the year now to battle whatever crickets remain with insecticides, he said. "It would be a waste of time and money." Insecticides should be used in the spring when the cricket eggs hatch, he said.