Attack of the crickets

An army of Mormon crickets is on the move in northern Nevada.

Do you remember ever seeing a movie called The Hellstrom Chronicles? It was a film that came out in the early ‘70s, a captivating documentary about insects and their thoroughly amazing abilities to survive and thrive everywhere on Earth. That movie came to mind last week as I stopped my truck in the middle of a dirt road north of the Red Rock area, got out and watched an army of Mormon crickets advance.

The bugs are back this year, and they’re back in numbers. Very large numbers. From what I could see in Red Rock and Antelope Valley, this year’s cricket crop laughed at that freeze we had a few weeks ago, the freeze that some hoped would kill off many, if not all, of this year’s hatch.

Not a chance.

If you’ve ever wanted to hang with thousands and thousands of bugs, here’s your opportunity. Just head out to Red Rock or Cold Springs or Antelope Valley or Dry Creek Valley, and then get on some dirt road. You can’t miss ’em. It’s actually kind of cool, in a bizarre, neo-naturalist sort of way.

Just remember that the crickets are absolutely harmless, and in fact will make an effort to get the heck away from you. Which means you can stand in the middle of a road surrounded by hundreds of them and easily withstand all primitive urges to freak out, unless you’re a real candy-ass about insects.

Instead of freaking out, I was wondering if we will ever get to a point in this country when we will look at the crickets not as pests, but as dinner. Or at least a fine protein snack, like jerky with antennae. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were healthier for us than, say, Cheetos.

What makes it semi-weird and somewhat exciting out there in the weeds of Cricketville is that these guys are big. These ain’t flies or caterpillars we’re talkin’ about. These are hardy, significant bugs, at least an inch to an inch and a half in body length, reddish brown in color, some of them black, and packing far more heft than your ordinary grasshopper.

Plus, many of them have a nasty lookin', one-inch-long curved blade thingy coming out of their rear ends, sort of like an anal scimitar. It looks like it could be some kind of wicked skin slicer, but it’s not. It’s the cricket’s ovipositor, for use in egg planting.

As I stood in the road observing, I noticed something right away that seemed ominous. These hundreds and hundreds of bugs on the move were all headed in the same way. This was not a scattered operation, with all kinds of crickets going every which way in chaos. These guys were all headed in the same direction, meaning they’re spreading out across the desert. Meaning that they’re not content to stay in the Red Rock or Antelope Valley areas. Meaning that they’re on the move.

Millions and millions of them.