BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Mormon crickets are moving through Oneida County in southeastern Idaho and damaging valuable farm crops, according to agriculture officials.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said Mormon crickets have recently been found near the Elkhorn Mountains, Malad Range, Pleasantview Hills and Samaria Mountain.
According to the department, landowners are already reporting damage to their pastures, the Idaho State Journal reported.
Mormon crickets are known to cause damage to crops and rangeland if they break out in large swarms. The small insect, related to the grasshopper, doesn’t fly but can migrate great distances and travel in wide bands.
Mormon crickets are common in southern Idaho but populations have been low over the past two years, according to USDA information provided to the newspaper. The last outbreak was in 2006 in eastern Idaho. Scientists are still unsure what causes the cricket outbreaks.
In Oneida County, Mormon crickets have been counted as high as 15 crickets per square yard.
Officials say they are working to control an outbreak this year. However, they also noted that the insects have already laid eggs throughout western Idaho and could cause mass damage for next year’s crops.
“Once eggs have been deposited, the majority of crickets will begin to die off. While the immediate problem is resolved, there is a higher risk of an even bigger problem next year,” according to the information provided by USDA officials. “Farmers and ranchers should observe these hatching sites and take action early next spring if needed.”