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New research reveals why grasshoppers flock to Las Vegas



Back in the summer of 2019, when jokingly said that the harbinger of the apocalypse still seemed fresh and interesting, countless grasshopper sw descended on the Las Vegas Strip.

These insects are not bitter or insecticides. But for the next few weeks, every night after sunset, their wings gleamed from the pyramid of Luxor Casino, full of light, and dead exoskeletons littered the sidewalk. The news media speculated that the cause of the outbreak may be the wet winter that allowed more eggs to hatch, and the artificial light in the city, which lured grasshoppers to burn like moths.

A new analysis confirms the connection with city lights, which has a worrying effect on the grasshopper. Elske Tielens, an insect ecologist at the University of Oklahoma, discovered that on July 26, 2019, on the night of the peak of the invasion, about 46 million grasshoppers flew over their wings and gathered in the brightest areas of the city.

She said: “It’s really hard to focus on that number.” “In one day, the number of locusts we get exceeds the number of locusts in the entire year when humans went to Vegas to gamble.”

Visitors certainly already know that Las Vegas has increased its power at night. But some of this light escapes straight up into space, and satellites regard it as the brightest city on Earth. The rest of the light spilled into the atmosphere, forming a glowing dome, which was recently measured by the National Park Service 200 miles from the Great Basin National Park in Nevada.

As far as insect ecologists are concerned, they have spent years studying how to turn individual lights and night traps into silent alarms to induce insects to die. But Dr. Tirrence and her colleagues, inspired by reports of the locust invasion in Vegas in 2019, saw an opportunity to find a broader model. They found that thick clouds of grasshopper clouds can also be seen in weather radar data. Then, they covered the movement patterns of the radar with a separate map of urban vegetation and its night lighting.

Their research was published in the “Bio Letters” on Tuesday, recommending commuting to and from get off work every day. Before dusk, the grasshoppers began to spread across a wide area, gathering near vegetation. But as the daylight faded, they flew to the sky. Then they gathered dozens of miles away, not only toward the bright spots that previous studies had proved, but also toward the brightest area in the Las Vegas sky.

“This is really an exciting paper,” said Brett Seymoure, an ecologist at Washington University in St. Louis, who did not participate in the study. “So far, in this article, we really have no evidence that the dome is guiding insects.”

Insect ecologists are already worried that different insect populations around the world are declining, which may be due to the use of pesticides, loss of habitat at night, pollution, climate change, and artificial light at night. She said that Dr. Tirrence’s research did not estimate how many grasshoppers died, or how the night trip into the heart of Vegas every night might affect the next generation of grasshoppers. But this does show that artificial lighting can affect insects on a regional scale, and on July 26, 2019, the city’s low light summoned 30 tons of fragile airborne biomass that would otherwise be spread over a larger area. In the ecosystem.

“From an ecological point of view, this is frightening,” said Dr. Seymoure. “Let all these grasshoppers swarm, and it might be scary for many people in Las Vegas. Although I think it’s really cool.”


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