CLIFTON – It’s been eleven years since residents and farmers in Clifton, Idaho have seen a Mormon cricket infestation — but they are back and they are “massive,” according Lynn Garner, owner of Caribou Mountain Farms.
“I was actually notified by some of the range guys that were riding the cows up on the mountain,” he said. “Some of those guys work for me and they just said there is a massive infestation coming.”
Garner is one of about a dozen farmers concerned the crickets will overtake and destroy their fields. He and others put in calls to anyone who would listen and are finally getting some help from the Idaho Department of Agriculture.
“If you talk to any of these farmers, they’ll tell you The best way to describe ‘em is a plague,” according to Cole Morrison, Idaho Ag Program Specialist. “They’ll go through and strip a half acre a day.”
After inspecting a number of farms and determining there was indeed a cricket problem, Morrison distributed bait to farmers last week.
“They’re doing a two front attack,” said Morrison. “We provide the bait that will draw them in, then they are spraying on their own dime. So they’re doing everything they can. It’s high risk for farmers, so the department has no problem coming out here and providing any assistance that we can.”
It’s especially high risk for Garner. His farmland is certified organic “so we can’t use pesticides or sprays. Once they’re in us we have no way to combat them chemically,” he said. “It’s a real concern, because I have zero recourse if they enter my fields.”
At this point, the only thing Garner said he can do is help his neighbors pay for the cost of purchasing pesticides and spray in an effort to control the insects.
“For example, I arranged for an aircraft on Friday,” he said. “They sprayed and dropped a lot on neighbors all the way around me. I’m proudly paying for the biggest portion of that bill even though we’re not spraying on my ground, because killing them prevents them from getting to me and that’s all I can do.”
Garner and other famers are getting additional help from an infamous Mormon cricket predator, the seagull. A flock of seagulls has been hanging out in the area, devouring crickets and helping rid farmer’s fields of the destructive insects.
Morrison will likely be in the Clifton area a few more times in the coming days. “If we can get to it early, we can try and keep it from affecting other land owners,” he said.