Morman crickets on the march |

Morman crickets on the march

Kim Lamb / Lahontan Valley News / A traveler drives north along Highway 305 in 2004 toward Battle Mountain despite the Mormon crickets, alive and dead, that litter the roadway.

RENO (AP) – Despite earlier hopes that this year’s Mormon cricket infestation would show signs of decline, state agriculture officials said the icky insects are marching and munching their way across the state in full force.

“They’re pretty much all the way across Nevada again,” said Jeff Knight, state entomologist with the Nevada Department of Agriculture. Officials estimate the 2-inch insects will infest 10 million to 12 million acres by the end of summer.

Hardest-hit areas include parts of central Nevada, including Austin and Eureka, but crickets have also been on the march near Lovelock, at Sand Mountain east of Fallon and at the Interstate 80 truck stop at Wadsworth.

On Monday, the bugs swarmed outside the International Bar and Grill in Austin, the only restaurant open for lunch in the tiny mountain town along U.S. 50.

“The tourists want to know what they are and how long we’ve had them,” said restaurant owner, Susie Woolley. “We’ve even had some people take some home with them.”

Keeping them outside can be tricky.

“As soon as somebody opens the door, they’re right behind them,” Woolley said. “It’s hard on business.”

Last week, they invaded the town’s park and public swimming pool, covering the complex in a shifting blanket of bugs.

“Once they were there, they were crawling over everything,” Jan Morrison, owner of Main Street Shops in Austin, told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “Within the space of an hour or two, it was just like a sheet.”

North of Reno, crickets also are moving across parts of Palomino Valley, much to the chagrin and disgust of residents.

“They were horrible. You could hardly see the ground,” said 16-year-old Tim Lane. “They were crawling all over the houses and stuff.”

The crickets eat lawns, gardens, crops. In a frantic search for salts and protein, they often eat each other.

The insects were made infamous by nearly destroying the crops of Utah’s Mormon settlers in 1848. This is the seventh straight year they’ve invaded northern Nevada. The state has already sprayed about 400,000 acres, primarily in hard-hit Lander and Eureka counties.

, to help take the edge off this year’s invasion.

On Monday, the Department of Agriculture finished a program to chemically treat agricultural land near Eureka. Knight said the state will probably spend about $1.5 million fighting crickets this year.

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