The Biblical snake has been spreading for decades in the form of left-wing politicians. Now it’s these insect’s turn.
Driving down a windy canyon road in northern Oregon rangeland, Jordan Maley and April Aamodt are on the look out for Mormon crickets, giant insects that can ravage crops.
“There’s one right there,” Aamodt says.
They’re not hard to spot. The insects, which can grow larger than 2 inches (5 centimeters), blot the asphalt.
Mormon crickets are not new to Oregon. Native to western North America, their name dates back to the 1800s, when they ruined the fields of Mormon settlers in Utah. But amidst drought and warming temperatures — conditions favored by the insects — outbreaks across the West have worsened.
The Oregon Legislature last year allocated $5 million to assess the problem and set up a Mormon cricket and grasshopper “suppression” program. An additional $1.2 million for the program was approved earlier this month.
It’s part of a larger effort by state and federal authorities in the U.S. West to deal with an explosion of grasshoppers and Mormon crickets that has hit from Montana to Nevada. But some environmental groups oppose the programs, which rely on the aerial spraying of pesticides across large swaths of land.