If you’ve ever Googled “What does the Bible say about locusts,” you’ve likely seen pages and pages of short quotes about the little buggers. Most of them sound like the writer was either pissed, starving, or plainly exhausted. Well, all of that seems pretty accurate to landowners across Northwest North America right now, as a biblical cricket outbreak is leaving them desperate for solutions.
“They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.” Revelation 11:6
“The locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank;” Proverbs 30:27
Mormon Crickets Feed On Their Dead
Mormon crickets, named in the 1800s when they completely destroyed Mormon farmers’ crops in Utah, can grow to about two inches in length. They aren’t really locusts, but a form of flightless katydid. Locusts, crickets, grasshoppers, and katydids all belong to the same family.
Mormon crickets feast on their own dead, much like zombies or something. So, when they flock to your fields like the biblical beasts that they emulate, and you kill them, more come.
Skye Krebs, a rancher described the cricket outbreak to MarketWatch. “On the highways, once you get them killed, then the rest of them come.”
In 2017, the roads of Arlington, Oregon were described as covered in the entrails of squashed crickets. Gross!
Last year, over 10 million acres of rangeland were destroyed by the Mormon cricket outbreak.
The Oregon legislature is ramping up their cricket suppression efforts with a program that assists private landowners in spraying their fields with pesticides. The state is paying for 75% of the cost. For people like rancher Diana Fillmore, who spent $45,000 in hay to combat crickets last year, pesticide program is crucial. She’s getting 500 acres aerially sprayed with diflubenzuron thanks to the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA), funded by the state legislature.
A Hotter, Drier Climate = Cricket Outbreaks
The issue has been exacerbated by climate change. Hot, dry climates are friendly to insects. As such, biblical swarms of crickets are reproducing en masse.
The diflubenzuron pesticide being distributed by the government kills the Mormon cricket eggs but not the grown insects. So, it’s only effective if used early on before swarms get really bad.
There’s also much controversy surrounding the chemical. Environmental groups are especially concerned.
The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) is suing the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). They’re alleging that the APHIS didn’t adequately inform the public about treatment areas and damage to ecosystems. They’re also saying that there wasn’t adequate research into the long-term use of pesticides nor were there appropriate measures taken to consider alternate solutions.
Environmental groups are saying that the sprayed pesticides are harmful to a wider variety of insects, such as pollinators like bees (which are essential for food production). Additionally, they’re concerned that the numbers of crickets being killed will starve other animals which depend on them for nutrition.
Diflubenzuron has been found to have a detrimental effect on aquatic invertebrates. The APHIS is claiming to be aware of this, and as such are promising to use less than what is recommended on the label.
One quote comes to mind about this biblical cricket outbreak conundrum. Take it or leave it.
If you weren’t aware, crickets are very high in protein and taste kind of delicious.
“Of them you may eat: the locust of any kind, the bald locust of any kind, the cricket of any kind, and the grasshopper of any kind.” Leviticus 11:22