Tooele, Utah is suffering from a plague of grasshoppers that moved northwestern Utah around June 21, 2023, is creating quite a buzz and now the story is getting even stranger.
“Every bit of alfalfa that’s in my fields is gone,” rancher Michael Dow said. “I planted a pasture and all the seedlings were about 3/4 of an inch tall Sunday morning, and on Sunday evening, they were gone, it was bare dirt.”
Dow told KSL TV 5 that there were about 70 grasshoppers per square year and the infestation grew worse over a period of two weeks.
“They’ll take out a crop in a matter of days and you can poison them with a spray, you can create a buffer zone with poison, it’s not a threat to pets or livestock. But you have to catch them early,” he added.
Utah’s Department of Agriculture did give him poison but “we just didn’t catch them in time,” Dow lamented.
“As we’re driving through them with the side-by-side and they’re jumping all over you, they land on your face. It’s not a good feeling,” he said. “They’ll stick to your clothes and get in your pockets, they’re just kind of nasty little creatures.”
— Shelby Lofton (@newswithShelby) June 30, 2023
As the reports of the mini-plauge became national news there were multiple reports that the swarm of grasshoppers were captured on radar.
“This is not a common thing,” state entomologist Kris Watson of Utah’s insect and pest program said. “Grasshoppers themselves are common, but for them to show up on radar detection – to my understanding, it’s not very common.”
The reports of the swarm being picked up by weather radar caught the attention of the US National Weather Service (here’s where things get weird).
From The Salt Lake Tribune:
The National Weather Service said Saturday it wasn’t a large swarm of grasshoppers its radar imaging caught moving into northwest Utah after all.
A week after announcing that alarming discovery, the weather service reported that further analysis showed that the unusual blip on the radar most likely was caused by material released from a U.S. Air Force base in Nevada.
Scientists initially identified the June 21 radar movement as insects, because the group was very “non-uniform,” and meteorological events — like raindrops and snowflakes — tend to be more consistent in shape, meteorologist Alex DeSmet said.
The idea that a swarm of grasshoppers would be spotted in the Utah desert isn’t that far-fetched. The northeastern Nevada city of Elko recently dealt with a Mormon cricket invasion, with millions of the blood-red insects blanketing parts of the city, The Associated Press reported June 20 — a day before the weather service first noticed the unusual radar movement.
So a day before the “unusual radar movement” the AP reports an invasion of insects in Nevada. A day later a radar anomaly was reported as grasshoppers. The story goes national and a day later the US weather service says oopps they got it wrong.