Mormon crickets are hatching earlier than usual in Millard County and will soon be on the move again, necessitating early baiting programs.

Baiting is already under way on federal lands in hopes of controlling the pests as early as possible, said Bob Stevens of the Fishlake National Forest. The first crickets were found Feb. 22.Stevens reported the infestation is lighter than usual in the mountains near Oak City, attributed to persistent baiting programs by the Forest Service and farmers. Those programs greatly reduced the cricket hatching, growth stages and egg-laying cycles, he said.

The area south of Kanosh, where baiting has not been as extensive, is more heavily infested than Oak City. Farmers are being advised to start baiting now, not waiting until crickets are grown and cause widespread damage to crops and grazing lands.

Bait is available at Utah State University Extension Service offices in Delta and Fillmore and at the home of Jim Minton in Kanosh. Landowners can get financial assistance to fight the pests, particularly if a property is adjacent to state or federal lands.

Crickets invaded Millard County in large numbers about five years ago and have been a constant menace since that time. Officials say the number of crickets is so great there is no way to eliminate them. Efforts have been toward control.

The invasion began on federal land near Oak City but the pests are now found throughout most of the populated eastern areas of the county. Highways have frequently been black with the pests.

Efforts to keep them from spreading have not been entirely successful.

Crickets were discovered in Sevier County for the first time last year. They were found in the western sector, having spread from infested areas in Millard County. Extension Service officials conclude that the pests are not expected to reach farmlands in Sevier Valley this year, however.

Because the crickets can move at a rapid pace of up to three miles per day, the Extension Service and federal and state agricultural agencies are asking people who travel the mountains between Sevier and Millard counties to be alert to new locations of crickets. Officials want locations of the pests reported as soon as possible by calling the State Department of Agriculture or Extension Service offices in the two counties.