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The common name of Anabrus simplex (Mormon cricket) implies that this insect is in the cricket family Gryllidae, but it is actually a shieldbacked katydid from the family Tettigoniidae.  Mormon crickets are large, flightless natives to western North American grasslands. Despite their flightlessness, these insects are highly mobile and the nymph stages can migrate extensively in large bands in search of food. They have diverse eating habits and are known to eat more than 400 different kinds of plants but are most partial to certain succulent forbs including milkvetches, penstemon, arrowleaf balsamroot, dandelion, and also favor cultivated crops such as wheat, barley, alfalfa, sweetclover, and garden vegetables. Although their populations are usually small and controlled they periodically build up into outbreak densities during which time they migrate to find food in croplands where they are a serious agricultural pest, able to quickly destroy a crop as they pass through. Mormon crickets caused extensive damage over 11 western states in a 17-year outbreak that started in 1931. There is evidence dating from 222 BC that native Americans harvested, roasted and ate these insects in large numbers during outbreaks. (Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station 1994; Wikipedia 2011)

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© Dana Campbell

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