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Why are there so many grasshoppers in the Las Vegas valley? Nevada entomologist explains

Posted at 7:24 PM, Jul 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-26 19:09:55-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Watch out where you're walking because grasshoppers have invaded the Las Vegas valley.

You've probably seen them, the little flying bugs are suddenly everywhere. But where did they come from?

Nevada's state entomologist held an impromptu press conference on Thursday to set the record straight.

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"The grasshopper that just came in the last couple days to Las Vegas is the pallid-winged grasshopper," said Jeff Knight, the state entomologist with the Nevada Department of Agriculture.

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.

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"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.

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"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.

Trent English, a pest control technician with Truly Nolen, treated one gas station that was overrun with grasshoppers.

He says, at one point, there were so many swarming that customers didn't want to come out of their cars.

"There were thousands that were congregating all over that general area. Not just that area, but at that point in time customers were afraid to even come in through the doors or get out of their cars. It created a little bit of a panic epidemic because people didn’t know what they were," said English.

English says while grasshoppers are not the most harmful pests in the valley, enough of them can do some damage.

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"They are plant feeders so they are notoriously known for wiping out crops. They can destroy gardens, plants, vegetation," said English.

He adds that grasshoppers are ground dwelling insects but can jump and fly great lengths, which is why he believes a barrier is your best option to protect your plants.

"The best course of action would be to find some type of cage or netting that will actually secure that area so they can’t get in, invade, and destroy those things you've been growing," said English.