Las Vegas has been invaded by thousands of swarming grasshoppers that descended en masse on the tourist-filled strip
The insect invasion is being attributed to the unusually wet weather experienced by the area’s normally desert-like climate. This year, Las Vegas has recorded more rain in six months that the annual average.
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Unlike locusts, a devastating species that can clear huge swathes of vegetation in their path, these migratory pallid-winged grasshoppers are native to North America.
Jeff Knight, state entomologist with the Nevada Department of Agriculture, explains that the adult pallid-winged grasshoppers are traveling north to central Nevada and are a common desert species.
Knight says the grasshoppers are not new. He remembers swarms flying this far north several times since the 1960’s.
“The ones that started down probably in Laughlin or southern Nevada, or even Arizona, are the ones that are moving up to central Nevada. So a couple hundred miles,” said Knight.
When these desert dwellers migrate north, Knight says it’s usually after a wetter-than-average winter or spring.
“When we have a wet winter or spring, these things build up. A lot of times, when populations get too big, it triggers the insects to move to find new areas,” said Knight.
Knight says the grasshoppers are attracted to ultraviolet lights, making valley gas stations and parking lots popular spots for swarms, which can be bad for business.
“When you have thousands of insects like that, it does create that panic in somebody’s mind,” said Knight.
But Knight says there’s no need to fear these grasshoppers because they’re harmless to humans: “They don’t carry any diseases. They don’t bite. They’re not even one of the species that we consider a problem,” said Knight.
He admits this is one of the worst years for grasshoppers that he has ever seen in southern Nevada, but does not expect them to be in Las Vegas longer than a couple more weeks.