Dawn of the Mormons

“Dad,” my daughter Catie said, “what’s that?”

“What’s what?”

“What are those things in the road?”

I saw them. Things in the road. Crawly bug things. Lots of them. I knew right away what they were. She didn’t, but something in her mind began flashing red, which initiated the loading up of her cranial hard drive with the basic “insect freakout” program. Then, as I slowed down to take a closer look, the dreaded word she’d been fishing for finally popped up on her mind monitor—“crickets!”

Yep, crickets. Mormon crickets, to be specific. Northern Nevada’s answer to your good ole Biblical plague, and the unfortunately creepy downside to a warm beginning of spring. In fact, it’s safe to say that the more beautiful the spring, the bigger the resulting explosion of crickets. With this past March being the warmest in the last 70 years, the billions of cricket eggs laid by last year’s wandering garden-gobblers seem to have enjoyed it just as much as we did.

I stopped the SUK and got out. Catie didn’t budge. She had been traumatized by a few million crickets in the boonies out by Battle Mountain a couple of summers ago, and I could see it was gonna take some serious, dedicated counseling to one day pull her out of it. “Poor kid,” I thought, “she’ll never know the quiet joys of living in a Winnemucca trailer park.”

We were parked on Pyramid Lake’s Highway 445, north of Sutcliffe, where the pavement stops at Warrior Point. The road was thick with tiny, active crickets, about a third of the size they’ll be in June. I had never seen them at this stage before. They looked sorta cute. Well, at least those who weren’t currently scarfing on their buddies who had just been squashed by my front left tire. It’s tough to be cute when you’re dining on your brother’s innards.

You say you’re unfamiliar with Nevada’s Black Wave of Big Bugs? Here’s their standard game plan. March—wake up. Begin eating. Food—tiny bits of plants. April—now about a half inch long. Very active. Food—plant leaves. And discovering the joys of cannibalism, the ultimate in survival techniques. May—now an inch long and black (mostly; there are plenty of reddish black crickets). Ravenously hungry. In fact, would rather eat than sleep. Food—shrubs, gardens, welcome mats, hoses, small schnauzers and terriers. June—full grown, anywhere from an inch to two inches long. Surly, and still real hungry. Food—trees, basketballs, old tires, cinder blocks, burned-out Pintos. July—large. Scary large. At this stage, most folks having direct encounters with the bugs simply get in the back of the truck and curl into a fetal position. Hunger fading, most energy now focused on breeding. Copulating crickets make bizarre science-fiction noises described as “madness-inducing.” August—death. Wads shot, eggs laid, this year’s mob finally runs out of gas … until next March.