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Mormon Crickets on the Move

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:


Elizabeth BeersElizabeth Beers

Department of Entomology
Washington State University
Tree Fruit Research & Extension Center
Wenatchee, WA 98801Phone: 509.663.8181 x234


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