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Study Finds Mormon Crickets Can Survive Frigid Temperatures

US Department of Agriculture

Researchers are trying to understand the lifecycle of the Mormon cricket—a common pest in the Rocky Mountains.

It doesn't fly, but it does walk in large groups. Bob Srygley, an ecologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said the crickets can create traffic hazards when they cross roads.

"People equate it with like a parade, you know walking down main street," he said. "These parades will be a kilometer across, or you know a half mile across and ten or 15 miles long. And then they just walk, they walk in the same direction day after day after day."

The insects can also damage agriculture. Srygley and his team measured the coldest temperatures the crickets could tolerate in Wyoming and nearby states.

"That's really important for Bighorn, Wyoming for instance, where they might not become adults until the end of August," he said. "Their reproductive period is going to be September, where suddenly you get your first snowfall."

Srygley was surprised to find that the insect could survive in temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit. He said modeling the insect's life cycle throughout the year will help managers decide when to use insecticides and other control techniques.

Have a question about this story? Please contact the reporter, Ashley Piccone, at apiccone@uwyo.edu.

Ashley is a PhD student in Astronomy and Physics at UW. She loves to communicate science and does so with WPM, on the Astrobites blog, and through outreach events. She was born in Colorado and got her BS in Engineering Physics at Colorado School of Mines. Ashley loves hiking and backpacking during Wyoming days and the clear starry skies at night!
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