Monument Study May Help Stop Mormon Cricket Scourge
By Amy Spillman
June 7, 2002
Data from a study commencing this July
at Dinosaur National Monument in
Colorado may help scientists predict which areas are most at risk for invasion
by bands of Mormon crickets, according to an ecologist with the
Agricultural Research Service.
Mormon crickets, which are actually a species of katydid, can cause
widespread damage to agricultural areas when their numbers swell. Under
outbreak conditions, bands of up to 100,000 flightless crickets roam across the
land, devouring crops, grasses and ornamentals they encounter. They can travel
as far as a mile and a half per day.
During the study, researchers will use a combination of radio telemetry and
harmonic radar to keep track of migratory cricket bands in and around the
Colorado park. They hope to discover the environmental cues that determine
which direction the bands will move in, how fast theyll go, and how far
The new study is a collaborative research project between ecologist Greg
Sword of ARS Northern Plains
Agricultural Research Laboratory in Sidney, Mont., and Darryl Gwynne and
Pat Lorch of the University of Toronto at
Mississauga in Ontario, Canada.
The researchers chose to base their study at Dinosaur National Monument
because it is a protected habitat. Control efforts by ranchers and other
federal agencies are prohibited, so the scientists will be able to study the
insects natural behavior and movements.
If the scientists can gather enough data, they may be able to develop models
for predicting band movements during future outbreaks, according to Sword.
These models would help increase the efficiency of pesticide applications and
reduce pesticide exposure of nontarget species.
Last year, Mormon crickets caused more than $25 million in damage in Utah
alone. Experts believe this years losses could be even worse because of
the huge numbers of nymphs--or young crickets--counted after this years
ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the
U.S. Department of Agriculture.