The story of the Mormon crickets isn’t over yet.
The early Saints didn’t have an easy time once they arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Isolated in a vast wilderness, they had their work cut out for them just to survive. When the spring of 1848 arrived, they optimistically planted crops, but by late May their much-needed food source was under attack from multiple fronts: deadly frost at night threatened to kill the budding plants, water was in short supply, and there were crickets. Millions and millions of crickets.
Most of us have heard the story of what happened next—in early June gulls descended on the fields and destroyed thousands of crickets at a time. This story, sometimes referred to as the ‘Miracle of the Gulls,’ is often shared as a faith-promoting example of divine providence rescuing people in need. And while it certainly is that, Latter-day Saint historians have sought to clarify aspects of the story that have been over-dramatized with time.
“Like numerous other popular accounts of important and unusual historical events, the details of the Cricket War of 1848 over the years have been oversimplified, improved upon, and given somewhat legendary characteristics,” the late historian William Hartley wrote. "The fact remains, nonetheless, that the 1848 Mormon pioneers would have suffered more than they did had not the gulls come to their aid. Physically, the gulls helped avert a complete agricultural disaster. . . . The ‘Miracle of the Gulls’ story remains appropriate as an expression of faith held by Mormon pioneers and their descendants.”
But the story of the Mormon crickets isn’t over yet. Each year millions of them show up in western states including Idaho, Utah, Oregon, and Nevada. And although farming technology has come a long way since 1848, the crickets still cause major problems: a swarm can cover a highway which is not only disgusting but also dangerous. KUTV writes that too many crushed bugs can lead to slick spots for drivers, similar to driving in icy conditions. To create safer roads, the Idaho Transportation Department recently sent a heavy equipment operator to plow the crickets of Highway 51 in southwest Idaho and shared this video: (If you’re squeamish around bugs, we recommend watching with the volume off.)
If you’re planning a road trip in Idaho this summer, you may want to plan to drive with the windows rolled up or pray for more gulls to take care of the pests.
To see more photos of the crickets and read how they are managed see KUTV.com.
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