RENO " Mormon crickets are on the march in northeast Nevada but experts say the 8-year-old infestation appears to be continuing a slow decline.
"I would say it's going to be about the same as last year, which was down quite a bit," said Jeff Knight, Nevada state entomologist. "Maybe it will be a little less."
The infestation peaked in 2005, when about 12 million acres of Nevada were infested with the insect made infamous by nearly destroying the crops of Utah's Mormon settlers in 1848.
Last summer, the creeping, cannibalistic insects covered between 750,000 and 1 million acres of the Silver State " about 10 percent as much land as was infested in 2006, Knight said.
This spring, Mormon crickets are mostly being found in western Elko County and to a lesser extent in Eureka and Lander counties, Knight said. None has yet to show in Washoe County.
"It's looking pretty good," he said.
Declining numbers of crickets, as well as the remote locations where they are turning up this year, make aerial spraying of the insects unnecessary this summer, Knight said. Spraying occurred every summer from 2003 through 2007.
Growing up to 2 inches long as adults, Mormon crickets swarm in groups thousands strong, gobbling lawns, gardens and crops. When starved for protein and salt, they don't hesitate to eat each other.