Farmers in the West face a creepy scourge every eight years or so: Swarms of ravenous insects that can decimate crops and cause slippery, bug-slick car crashes as they march across highways and roads.
The 3-inch-long Mormon crickets are actually katydids, an entomological cousin to grasshoppers. They are named after the Mormon pioneers who moved West and learned firsthand the insect's devastating effect on forage and grain fields.
Experts say this year could be a banner one for the big bugs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service reports significantly higher Mormon cricket populations on federal land in southwestern Idaho.
Spokeswoman Abbey Powell says some areas have as many as 70 crickets per square yard.
The swarms also are affecting Oregon, Nevada and other Western states.
By REBECCA BOONE