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Grasshoppers overtake Utah town

June 23, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
The residents of Tooele, Utah, are accustomed to seeing grasshoppers in the early summer, but this year the insects have overrun the town. Locals say it's the worst infestation they can remember.It happened quickly. The Atherley family was at home one day when a friend called.

"'Dude, have you checked out the front of your house?'" Tony Atherley recalls the friend asking.

Atherley went outside and found thousands of grasshoppers swarming the front of his house. It has gotten so bad, the family has been avoiding the front door and entering and leaving through the back for days.

Entomologists say Clear Wing grasshoppers can infest an area at a rate of 2,000 bugs per square foot. They are common to northern and central Utah this time of year, but the infestation in Tooele is far worse than usual.

The insects are posing a threat to local crops, and some farmers in the area have begun pesticide spraying to get rid of them. They are also getting some help from seagulls, which have flown into the area to feast on the grasshoppers.

Atherley's 9-year-old son Landon has his own approach to dealing with the grasshoppers.

"I run over them a lot with my bicycle," he said. "They look cool when they splatter."

State Department of Agriculture officials say despite the gulls and the eradication efforts, the grasshoppers are likely to be around for most of the summer.

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