Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Swarmin’ Mormons

The dreaded Mormon crickets that plague the American southwest are once again poised to swarm across Nevada and neighboring states, and local officials are worried. The pesky insects are known to eat precious crops and to migrate in such huge numbers that they can pose a visibility hazard on roads. Thousands of pounds of poison bait are spread around the area each year to keep the crickets at bay, but it’s not as effective as many would like. Technically, the Mormon cricket isn’t a cricket at all. It’s a type of shield-backed katydid. Also, it’s not actually Mormon, but was given the name after the legend that the first Mormon settlement in Utah was saved from starvation when a flock of gulls swooped in to eat a cricket horde that was destroying their wheat crops. But while they aren’t members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormon crickets shun caffeine, oppose gay marriage, and were officially a racist organization until the ‘70s. More details here.

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