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Invasion of the grasshoppers

Hordes of hungry grasshoppers make gardening and farming more difficult in parts of Utah.

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Hordes of grasshoppers are seen jumping in the grass beside a barn in Tooele, Utah. Tooele is experiencing one of the worst grasshopper invasions in decades.

Photos by Steve C. Wilson/AP

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An ambitious director might look at Mitch Halligan’s property and see an instant B-movie classic: “Invasion of the Grasshoppers.”

The place is overrun with the greasy little bugs. With each step you take on his property, the squirmy inch-long grasshoppers jump for cover in every direction. Those that don’t crunch under foot perch themselves atop tall grass stalks, crawl up pant legs or munch through gardens.

Across the road isn’t much better. Grasshoppers blanketed the neighbors’ entryway a few days ago and forced them to come in through the back door.

“I’d call this the closest that I’ve seen to a plague in a long time,” Mr. Halligan said.

Grasshoppers are regular summer visitors and a perennial crop-eating pest for farmers, but this year’s invasion in Tooele County west of Salt Lake City is worse than anyone can remember. Tooele County commissioners have been swamped with calls about grasshoppers, particularly by people living next to undeveloped land where grasshoppers hatch --sometimes up to 2,000 per square foot.

“There’s like 100 times more grasshoppers than what we’re used to,” said Bruce Clegg, a county commissioner whose family has lived in the area for generations.

Many of the culprits this year are clear-winged grasshoppers, which began hatching several weeks ago and have moved like an unyielding wave across the parts of the landscape ever since.

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