Written by Betsy Beers, WSU Entomology – TFREC, July 2018
There have been a number of reports of Mormon crickets recently, and sure enough, this is the time of year we start to see them – when adults are present, and the rangeland they come from is drying down (or on fire). Considering this insect is flightless, it can walk or hop a long way in search of food (up to 50 miles in a season). Native plant hosts include arrowleaf balsamroot, dandelion, sagebrush, and mustards, but they will happily eat cultivated crops of all types, including tree fruit.
Mormon crickets are a western phenomenon. Distribution is from the prairie provinces and British Columbia of Canada in the north, to the northern parts of Arizona and New Mexico in the south; the western parts of Minnesota down to Missouri, and west to Washington, Oregon and California (except the coastal parts).
Mormon Cricket fun facts:
They are not Mormon, and they are not crickets. This is a shield-backed katydid (Anabrus simplex, family Tettigoniidae), but they make a chirping sound rather like a cricket. They got the moniker ‘Mormon’ because they nearly wiped out the crops of the Mormon settlers in the mid-1800s (and were save by a flock of seagulls which ate the crickets…ahem, katydids).
These are sizeable animals. We think BMSB is a heavyweight at 150-200 mg/bug; Mormon crickets range from 3,400 to 4,100 mg for the male and female, respectively.
They can eat their weight in groceries. Literally. Through the 7 nymphal instars and 20 days of adult life, they consume about 3,500 mg of vegetation in dry weight.
They will also happily eat their comrades. Cannibalism is a common sight when Mormon crickets get together, and individuals crushed by cars are fair game. Sorry, Stevie!
For more information see:
or a great fact sheet from Wyoming:
Department of Entomology
Washington State University
Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center
Wenatchee, WA 98801Phone: 509.663.8181 x234
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