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Grasshoppers return to Las Vegas, but don't worry, it's not for long

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service shows a male migratory grasshopper.
U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
This undated photo provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service shows a male migratory grasshopper.

If you've been outside recently in Las Vegas, you might have dodged a grasshopper or two, or even 12. The bugs are back in town.

And it has some wondering if another grasshopper invasion is on the way. In 2019, record numbers of the insect swarm streetlights, got smashed on windshields and, horror of horrors, got stuck in people's hair.

Jeff Knight is the state entomologist with the Nevada Department of Agriculture, and recently joined State of Nevada to answer your bugging questions.

STATE OF NEVADA: Is what we're seeing normal, or could it get worse?

KNIGHT: We don't know how bad it's going to be. We don't really track this grasshopper. But it's definitely higher numbers than what is normal for these guys. If you go out in the desert, and you walk through the native areas, you'll maybe see one every 20, 30, 40 feet. So this is of course, way above normal; they get concentrated coming into the city because of, one, the desert starting to dry out right now. And so their food supply is diminishing. And so they start moving to find more food. And then they come into the city because they're attracted to lights. And it's primarily the ultraviolet wavelength and the lights and they're attracted to … we can see numbers getting concentrated into in Las Vegas.

SON: What conditions led to this burst in the bugs?

KNIGHT: Most likely, or what it seems to be from years past, is the kind of wet winter that we have. And that seems to promote plant growth, which helps the insects survive better to maturity. And once they're mature, they're not going to grow anymore. ... Predators and parasites are sort of, if you will, out of whack. And so they aren't keeping up with the population and keeping the population in check. And once all these things come together, then we'll see the grasshoppers disappear again for a few years.

SON: Are they affecting gardens in town?

KNIGHT: Yeah, we've already had a few reports of backyard gardens being hit especially along the edges of town. But these things will eat mostly small broadleaf plants like weeds and stuff like that, and grasses. They're pretty much omnivores as far as plants go. We've seen some damage already on turf, and in a golf course up north of town. Like I was saying, the numbers seem to be higher on the west side of town and north. Although there's been reports of pretty high numbers downtown too.

SON: Are they dangerous? What about for pets?

They carry no diseases. They don't bite that I've ever known. So they're just a nuisance. … Basically, they have six legs. A lot of people just don't like them. … If [pets] ate a ton of them, they might have some problems, and you would need to get them to vet. But I'm sure the coyotes and the foxes are having a great time to out there … another big food source for the native wildlife.

SON: When will they leave?

KNIGHT: They're only going to be here a couple of weeks, they're likely coming into town again because of the lights and because of maybe the vegetation on the edge of town. But they'd rather really complete their lifecycle out in the desert. They may be mating in town and stuff, but they're not going to lay eggs or anything like that. And they're only one generation a year, or maybe a small second one in the fall. We're not going to see this all summer.

Guest: Jeff Knight, state entomologist, Nevada

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Kristen DeSilva (she/her) is the audience engagement specialist for Nevada Public Radio. She curates and creates content for, our weekly newsletter and social media for Nevada Public Radio and Desert Companion.