Grasshopper invasion of Las Vegas may last weeks, experts say

Grasshoppers swarm a light a few blocks off the Strip on July 26, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Grasshoppers swarm a light a few blocks off the Strip on July 26, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.PHOTO: AFP

LAS VEGAS (NYTIMES) - A swarm of winged insects enveloped a pyramid: Sound familiar?

An invasion of pallid-winged grasshoppers descended on Las Vegas this week, taking over the Strip and several of the city's most popular tourist spots, including the night skies above the Luxor hotel and casino.

The resort, a 30-storey pyramid inspired by ancient Egypt, says that its Sky Beam, a powerful column of light issuing nightly from the peak of the pyramid, can be seen by airline pilots as far away as Los Angeles.

But the beam has also become a magnet for grasshoppers, which experts say are drawn to ultraviolet light and could linger in Las Vegas for weeks.

"What we would consider the white lights are the ones we would consider more attractive to them," Jeff Knight, an entomologist with the Nevada Department of Agriculture, said, mentioning as an example the use of yellow light bulbs on porches.

May Berenbaum, the head of the entomology department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, said the Luxor Sky Beam was well known for drawing insects - almost always "a dense column of moths."

An unusually wet year so far in Las Vegas, which has already exceeded its annual rainfall average of about four inches (10cm), is responsible for the arrival of the pallid-winged grasshoppers, Knight said.

The insects migrated from southern Nevada and possibly from as far as Arizona, according to Knight, who said they were not considered a problem species.

Although some locusts are part of the grasshopper family, Knight has reassuring news for the apocalyptically minded: These grasshoppers are not locusts.

"They don't bite," he said.

"They don't sting. People don't like them. That's understandable." Neil Vigdor.