Friday, March 7, 2014

Mormon Cricket Invasion in the 30's

The Feb 4, 2014 program on the "Mormon Cricket Invasion in the 30's" was presented by Doris Schenk, Rocky Courchaine, and Betty Haiar to 61 members of the Spearfish Area Historical Society at the Spearfish Senior Citizens Center.  The invasion of millions of crickets hit the Sundance, WY area in 1937 following a record dry year in 1936.  The oversized Mormon cricket is not really a cricket but is a katydid, getting its name from an infestation in Utah where the arrival of a flock of seagulls saved the Mormon crops from complete devastation.  Mormon crickets move in a mass, hopping but cannot fly.  They bark like a Chihuahua.  Local actions were taken by building trenches and low 6" fences to stop the advance so that killing by pesticide could work.  The pesticides used were 1) banana oil and arsenic, 2) recycled oil, and 3) carbaryl, the active ingredient in Sevin.  Mormon crickets are cannibalistic and a poisoned cricket would weaken and quickly be eaten, poisoning the cannibal, and on and on.  People working near the arsenic did report feeling ill.  By 1938 the cricket invasion was under control.  Mormon crickets haven't totally left the Sundance area as Rocky reported that small but noticeable numbers were spotted only a few years ago.

Doris Schenk made these comments for the website posting:
             This program came about when Jane Carlstrom who does the Peak at the Post column for the BH Pioneer put a news note from 75 years ago in 1938 "They took down the Mormon cricket fence".  Someone was curious and asked Laurie Hayes "What is a Mormon cricket fence?"  Laurie asked me if I knew what it was and I did and she asked if I would do the program. 
             My Mom had saved pictures of Mormon crickets from the front page of the Sundance Times and I had made a copy for Ellen (Crago) Mueller who had grown up near Beulah, WY.  Ellen had done some research on Mormon crickets and she sent me a copy of her paper in 1996 which I used as a resource for the program.
             I remember, as a 4 year old, seeing the crickets on the road and in Sundance along with used oil in the road ditches there.
             The people who helped with information and displays were:  Betty Haiar (notes from her mom's diary 1937-1938), Rocky Courchaine (displays from Crook Co Museum), Donna and Randy Sachau (photos of crickets from the internet put on a DVD, Alice Pattinson (diamond willow can carved by the CCC boys and given to her in-laws, Dorothy Honodel (pictures from the Lawrence Co Extension Office), John Whalen (good information and a piece of the metal from the cricket fence, Paul and Violet Smith (good information from the cricket file she had created at the Sundance library).  Also thanks to Donabel (Nickelson) Ross, Carl Anderson, and Claire & Maxine Ripley for their help.