Blood-red crickets invade Nevada town, residents fight back with brooms, leaf blowers, snow plows

A highway sign warning "Caution Slick Road" is displays on Saturday in Spring Creek, Nev. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

A cricket climbs a brush during the migration of Mormon crickets Saturday in Spring Creek, Nev. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

ELKO, Nev. — Dana Dolan was driving through her small Nevada hometown when she thought she had come upon a gory crash. The ground surrounding Elko’s stretch of Interstate 80 looked as if it had been covered in blood. As the red color shifted and moved, she realized instead it was an infiltration of crickets, some bigger than her thumb.

“It’s almost like a biblical plague,” Dolan told The Associated Press last week, laughing at the absurdity of the situation that is playing out in Elko, where she’s lived for six years.


Tens of thousands of Mormon cricket eggs buried about an inch deep in the soil began to hatch in late May and early June. For weeks, the red critters have been invading swaths of northern Nevada and causing chaos, said the state’s longtime entomologist Jeff Knight.

The invasion of the cannibalistic crickets has hit especially hard in Elko, a small town of about 20,000 near Idaho and Utah known for its gold mining.

The big red bugs leave behind a stench so horrible, akin to burning flesh, that it forces residents to plug their noses while driving. The critters stick to tires and the bottoms of shoes, and their carcasses are everywhere, even in gyms. When they move, it sounds like rain, Dolan says.

Residents and workers have tried to use brooms, leaf blowers, pressure washers and snow plows to get rid of the crickets, only for them to return. State officials have erected signs throughout Elko County warning drivers of slick highways, a popular hangout spot for insects that won’t think twice about eating their dead friends.

The red creatures blanket highways and scuttle over barriers, seeking food.

They crackle and pop under the wheels of trucks, creating something like an oil slick, said Jeremiah Moore of Spring Creek, whose vehicle slid off the road after a highway encounter with the Mormon crickets.

“I … was coming home and as I came around the corner, I came around a little too fast and I about ended up in the ditch full of water,” Moore said. “It was pretty intense.”

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