They’re baaaack! A plague of those creepy crawly Mormon crickets are chewing their way through Nevada and are headed our way. Native Americans long valued these ugly bugs for their nutritional value, herding them to gather to roast and grind into a flour of sorts making edible cakes of sorts that pioneers called “desert fruitcakes”.
If you’re not a native Utahn you may not have heard the famous tale of the 1848 cricket invasion. The newly arrived Mormons had barely been in the Salt Lake Valley for a year and had worked hard and fast to plant and raise crops. The late harvest that first year was bleak and spring the following year had late frosts that destroyed the second planting season. Sometime during their second summer here black clouds of these kinda scary looking bugs landed and crawled and chewed their way to the gardens of the saints, threatening to wipe out major food sources. This creature is known to travel in huge swarms and will eat all plant material in their path. The story goes that the settlers prayed for a miracle and sure enough a huge flock of seagulls came and ate all the bugs, saving crops. What is now known as the “Miracle of the Gulls” is mostly factual and it is why the seagull (actually the California Gull) is the state bird of Utah. These kinds of gulls are a desert bird and have been in Utah for centuries. They certainly didn’t eat all the crickets and damage to the crops also happened because there was a drought going on in the state those years.
White folk aren’t known to eat bugs. I’ve never seen any historical records that Utah pioneers ate these crickets, but frankly, they should have! Sun dried and ground up, crickets have 60% protein, 10% carbs and around 3,000 calories per kilogram. Nowadays you can buy ‘3 Cricketeers’ dark chocolate candy bars, Cricket Crunch Bars, Chocolate Chip Cricket Cookie Mix with Cricket Flour, dried edible bugs “Crick-ettes’ flavored with salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion or bacon and cheese flavor and Entolife brand dried crickets form Maine flavored with chocolate and coffee or sriracha. Silly pioneers! We could have had our famous Utah funeral potatoes with dried bugs mixed in or even our office state snack (Green Jello) with crickets suspended in Jello. As an aside, Bill Cosby came to our Utah state Senate in 2001 to encourage legislators to make Jello our official snack.
Elko, Nevada is under siege with millions of bugs and they are headed here. Twenty years ago, almost 2.5 million acres were infested with them in Utah, and Tooele County was one of the worst-hit areas. They may be part of the food chain but they are smelly and BUG-ly!