mormon crickets

Uncategorized Jul 09, 2024

On day two of our cross-country trip, we left Las Vegas and drove through the Virgin River gorge in a small corner of Arizona before heading into Utah.  Beyond the red rock formations there lay an unexpected attraction:  Mormon crickets.

We stopped in Meadow, Utah for a pitstop where little crickets delighted the boys inside the service station.  The station attendant suggested that if we drove just five miles up the road, we would come to an abandoned gas station where we could see giant Mormon crickets.  The pull of such a novelty was irresistible.  After all, if a local tells you to see the Mormon crickets, it must be worth the stop!

Mormon crickets aren’t actually crickets at all.  They are members of the katydid family. (Tettigoniidae, for you herpetologists.)  They are actually most closely related to grasshoppers.  The males have been known to chirp, hence the association with crickets. 

A massive infestation of the creatures in the Salt Lake Valley of the 1840s decimated the crops of the Latter Day Saint colonists, and so they were called “Mormon” crickets.  Somehow it seems more appropriate that their destructiveness should make them anti-Mormon crickets.  In the three weeks previous to our visit, they had been swarming in Nevada, and were oddly converging at this one gas station.  We were only able to find three alive, and a few smashed. 

I found myself reflecting on one of my favorite scenes in the film “Men in Black” when Will Smith’s character J is trying to distract a giant alien “bug” from getting on a spaceship to escape earth.  As J stomps on giant cockroaches, he says, “Don’t start nothin’, won’t be nothin’”. 

We didn’t stomp on any Mormon crickets.  We weren’t there to start nothin’! 

Love, Liz