BATTLE MOUNTAIN, Nev. — The grasshoppers are back. But so far, agricultural experts say, a surge of Mormon crickets in north-central Nevada is not as bad as it was four years ago.
About 300,000 acres in the Battle Mountain and Winnemucca areas are infested with the three-inch-long grasshoppers, which eat trees, shrubs, flowers--even paint.
George Nash of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said the bugs are a public nuisance, but so far have not severely damaged any crops.
"That's the biggest issue with Mormon crickets," Nash said. "They're large insects. They're not very attractive. They have some rather nasty habits--they like to eat each other.
"But as far as agricultural loss, we really haven't seen very much, if any."
Officials are poisoning those that infest areas around homes. For residents, the bugs are a disgusting pain.
"They eat the paint off your house," said Alicia Price of Battle Mountain. "They didn't eat my paint, but they left black marks all over it.
"They ate all the plants and flowers. They're just disgusting and huge."
Sarah Burkhart, who owns a flower shop, said the crickets arrived on Memorial Day.
"There were just jillions of them," she said. "Everybody out there had golf clubs and bats and things they were trying to combat them with."
The grasshoppers were dubbed Mormon crickets after an infestation in Utah years ago.
Their eggs hatch in the spring. The crickets grow to adulthood by late summer and usually die by September.
In 1990, the insects infested about 3 million acres in Nevada.