RENO, Nev., June 30 (UPI) -- Mormon crickets are are big, dark-colored cricket-like insects that seem to thrive in drought conditions. In years past they've blanketed Nevada acreage like a scourge, devouring crops, garden vegetables and even each other.
Now, experts say, they could be back.
Mormon crickets got their name for almost destroying the crops of Utah's Mormon settlers in 1848. They've been populating the planting fields and nightmares of Western residents ever since. Like locusts, the insects are ever-present, but occasionally their population balloons into something out of a Hitchcock movie.
They're actually not crickets but shieldbacked katydids, which look like a cross between a cricket and a grasshopper. Whatever they are, they're not something anyone wants invading their neighborhood.
In 2003 -- according to the Reno Gazette-Journal -- local officials in Elko County declared a state of emergency "after the crickets invaded parts of Elko, crawling over the walls of a hospital and making roads unsafe with a slippery coating of crushed insects."
With drought conditions particularly bad in Nevada, and a mild winter only just in the rearview mirror, officials are worried a similar invasion could be in the works.
"It is more than we've found for the last several years," Nevada's state entomologist Jeff Knight told the RGJ -- speaking of the growing decibel levels coming from the chirp-filled deserts some 100 miles north of Reno. "We'll have to see what happens."
But while they're currently in the middle of nowhere, reports are that they're moving east.