If you were to walk down the Las Vegas strip you will see an unusual sight, even for Las Vegas. Hordes of grasshoppers covering the city, often concentrated around the Vegas lights and green spaces.
The grasshopper invasion is so significant that it can be seen from weather radars. The appearance of unusual weather patterns around Las Vegas caused the National Weather Service to adjust their radar processing to account for “biological targets,” i.e. grasshoppers.
The thought of swarms of insects often reminds people of the biblical Plagues of Egypt, one of which was locusts. Locusts devoured crops and trees, invaded houses and covered everything. They then brought on famine due to losses in crops.
While this may sound like a similar scenario, grasshoppers are not harmful and will do little damage to green spaces.
What Caused The Swarms Of Grasshoppers?
The grasshoppers are pallid-winged grasshoppers, which are from the Acrididae family and are known to range from South America’s Argentina up to British Columbia in Canada. They are concentrated in North America, particularly in desert ecosystems.
Outbursts of these pallid-winged grasshoppers are regularly recorded in history. Studies found that between 1952 to 1980 there were six outbreaks in Arizona. One of which lasted two years long. These outbreaks are recorded in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and California.
In this instance, the invasion of grasshoppers is associated with unusually high rainfall around Las Vegas and to the south. Las Vegas averages roughly 5 inches of rain per year. From January to June the same amount of rain fell, equalling the yearly total in the first half of the year. This increased rainfall is responsible for the significant increase in pallid-winged grasshoppers across Las Vegas.
The grasshoppers are drawn to both green spaces where they eat broad-leafed weeds and ultraviolet lights. If you’ve been to Las Vegas you’ll immediately recognize practically the entire city is covered in ultraviolet lights. The most iconic of which is the Sky Beam, the beam of ultraviolet light shooting up from the pyramid-shaped Luxor.
Unsurprisingly, videos are popping up on social media of grasshoppers swarming around the Luxor Sky Beam.
If you live in Las Vegas and want to deter the grasshoppers you can consider changing your lights for more yellow incandescent bulbs as they are less likely to attract the grasshoppers.
In the meantime, there’s not much you can do about the presence of grasshoppers. They are harmless and officials discourage the use of pesticides. The grasshoppers will simply be replaced within 24 hours. The best bet is to put up with the swarms and wait for them to go away. Unfortunately, it’s unclear when they will leave but experts say the grasshoppers could last for weeks.
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I am a geologist passionate about sharing Earth’s intricacies with you. I received my PhD from Duke University where I studied the geology and climate of the Amazon. I am the founder of Science Trends, a leading source of science news and analysis on everything from climate change to cancer research. Let’s connect @trevornace
Source: Las Vegas Invasion: Grasshopper Swarms May Last Weeks