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October 21, 2021

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Grasshoppers flood Las Vegas, but the influx is fleeting

Pallid-winged Grasshoppers

Steve Marcus

Pallid-winged grasshoppers are shown on a sidewalk outside the Las Vegas Sun offices in Henderson Thursday, July 25, 2019.

Pallid-winged Grasshoppers

A pallid-winged grasshopper is shown on a sidewalk outside the Las Vegas Sun offices in Henderson Thursday, July 25, 2019. The Las Vegas Valley is seeing an abundance of the grasshoppers due to a wet winter and a cool spring. Launch slideshow »

A light-rustic gold tints their tiny bodies, which are lifted by lanky legs. Their even skinnier antennae perk up above their blocky heads, and their exoskeleton is rough to the touch.

Black bands on their wings almost resemble tiger stripes, which is what distinguishes these desert-living grasshoppers in the species. The docile insects measure no more than 1 1/2 inches, and they’re also mostly harmless.

“They don’t carry any diseases, they don’t bite, they’re not even one of the species that we consider a problem,” said Jeff Knight, entomologist for the Nevada Department of Agriculture, in a recorded briefing. They may feed on weeds, but they’re not the type to decimate crops, eat wooden structures or destroy private yards, he added.

When asked if they’re beneficial or harmful, the expert succinctly settled it: “They don’t do either.”

This is good news for Clark County as the area is experiencing somewhat of a temporary invasion. A staggering number of them has been spotted here, especially at light sources that emit high levels of ultraviolet, Knight said. Annoyed residents could avoid them by switching to yellow or amber porch bulbs, he added.

Either way, the critters are only expected to stick around a couple more weeks, Knight said.

Wetter than usual winter and spring seasons in Laughlin and northern Arizona, where the pallid-winged grasshoppers hatch in the fall, produced an abundant generation, Knight said.

In population increases, the insects move to find new regions, and for some reason they migrate north, up to central Nevada, Knight said.

The phenomenon is not normal but also not unprecedented.

Knight recalls four to five similar seasons in his more than 30-year career, the last one occurring about six or seven years ago, he said. There was a plentiful one in the early '90s, and now that he recalls, another in the early '60s, he said. Like life itself, it’s something that happened since “probably forever,” he said.

Similar to many of the human variety who visit the tourist mecca, the grasshoppers are briefly passing through.

They may settle here for a bit, but they will soon be gone, spreading their wings and hitting the warm air, sometimes rising above 1,000 feet.

Around this time, the grasshoppers are fully grown. They may want to mate in Southern Nevada, but the egg pods that could carry up to 100 baby critters wouldn’t survive here, Knight said. It’s just not that type of region.

So they’ll flutter their wings and continue on their destination, and some will even reach it. There, in central Nevada, they will live out their last days. Most will be dead by August, Knight said.

But like life itself, the cycle restarts. A fresh pod of eggs will hatch a few hundred miles to the south. This will continue to happen “probably forever.”