Blood-red Roads and The Stink of Burning Flesh: Mormon Crickets Invade Nevada Town

Jun 22, 2023

Seeing a snow plow on a Nevada road in summer would be strange enough. But imagine it pushing heaps of copper-colored bugs, leaving a bloody-red trail of squished insects behind. That’s what people in Elko, Nevada, are facing. 

“It’s been insane,” Charles Carmichael told The New York Times (NYT). He's the owner of Battle Born Pest Control. “It’s been wild. I haven’t sprayed this many houses for crickets in a long, long time.” 

Another resident told The Associated Press, “It’s almost like a Biblical plague.” 

Mormon crickets are the ones causing the trouble in Elko. Millions have burst from the ground since early June. They're moving in big groups, covering roads and making them slippery to drive on. That's why they have to be pushed away with a plow. To make things worse, these bugs leave a smell behind that's a lot like burning flesh. 

“Just disgusting,” a local hotel owner told the NYT.

The bugs were named after the Mormon farmers they bothered in the 1800s. They're not really crickets, though. Even though the males make a chirping sound, they're actually a type of wingless insect called katydids. They'll be sticking around Nevada until August, moving and mating in large groups. They eat plants, but they also eat each other. 

According to researchers at the University of Nevada, Reno, Mormon cricket infestations are not unusual. But after years of dry weather that kept the bugs' eggs from hatching, heavy rains this spring brought out a huge number of these red hoppers.  

Photo in Public Domain courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. 

Reflect: What other types of invasive species are you familiar with?

The author includes _______ in order to set the scene and create mental pictures for the reader. (Common Core RI.5.6; RI.6.6)
a. descriptive word choice
b. informative statistics
c. emotional quotes
d. a first person point of view
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