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News brief with The Colorado Sun: A Mormon cricket invasion and the Slummy Awards

 A two-lane road next to verdant green fields and a river stretches into the distance with tiny brown specks all across the road.
Courtesy of Cindy Day
The Colorado Sun
Mormon crickets cross State Highway 64 near Meeker in June 2023. The insects had an "exceptional hatch" this season in pockets of the Western Slope.

Each week, we talk with our colleagues at The Colorado Sun about the stories they're following. This time, Editor Lance Benzel joined us to talk about the new bugs swarming northwestern Colorado now that the moths are gone and a group of Denver renters who crashed a party for landlords with a protest.

An infestation of Mormon crickets has turned highways red in northwestern Colorado. Benzel told KUNC there was an exceptional hatch of the insects this year near Craig and Meeker, Colo.

“One witness described waves of them on a several-mile stretch of Highway 64. They're getting popped by car tires and leaving streaks on the road,” he said. “They're devouring hay crops. They also cling to houses and leave poop stains on siding that are hard to wash off.”

Benzel noted Mormon crickets aren’t actually crickets - they are shield-backed katydids. They got their nickname when they ravaged crops in Utah in the 1800s.

Benzel said it’s a bit of a mystery as to why there are so many of the insects this year.

“One hypothesis is that there is so much food for the katydids to munch on that they're not eating each other," he said. "It turns out that cannibalism is one way that the population is kept in check.”

Residents are encouraged to put up chicken wire with plastic sheeting, and farmers are told to keep their hay trimmed to make their fields less attractive to the bugs.

“They like long hay,” Benzel said.

In other news, The Sun also reported about an unusual protest last Thursday by a group of about 100 renters in Denver. They were angry about rising rent and poor living conditions.

“So they basically crashed a party for landlords. They marched to an awards ceremony last week held by the Apartment Association of Metro Denver and they demonstrated outside,” Benzel told KUNC.

The protestors also put on their own mock-awards ceremony calling out landlords, which they called the "Slummy Awards."

As a reporter and host for KUNC, I follow the local stories of the day while also guiding KUNC listeners through NPR's wider-scope coverage. It's an honor and a privilege to help our audience start their day informed and entertained.
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