RENO, Nev. (AP) -- They're back. And they appear to be as plentiful as ever.
Mormon crickets already are hatching by the thousands in the Reno area, and officials are predicting another major infestation across northern Nevada this summer.
"We've got reports of little ones all over the place," entomologist Jeff Knight of the Nevada Agriculture Department told the Reno Gazette-Journal. "Hatching is full force right now."
Last summer saw the worst infestation in 50 years as crickets covered northern Nevada from Reno to Elko 300 miles away.
The insects that nearly destroyed the crops of Utah's Mormon settlers in 1848 also marched across vast stretches of Utah and Idaho last summer.
Knight said a third mild winter in a row is causing crickets to hatch three weeks earlier than last year, a sign that this year's infestation could rival last year's. They're also being found at lower elevations.
"We're going to have crickets," Knight said. "There could be a lot more crickets this year."
Officials hope to launch their battle against the insects soon. Plans call for poison bait to be spread on public land and, for the first time, chemicals to be sprayed from the air.
But homeowners will not be able to obtain free poison bait from the state to apply on private land because there's no money to pay for it.
The crickets travel in wide bands by the thousands. They can gobble lawns and gardens, and make roads dangerously slick.
Jack Keely said the crickets even ate the wood siding of his Red Rock home north of Reno.
"It was terrible. They just completely inundated the area," he said.