Cricket-specific plague strikesS

Three days ago our hopes were raised for a coming insect-based food supply for humans. Already, those hopes have been dashed. A cricket plague has hit North America, and it threatens to shut cricket farms down.

What with every animal on earth deciding too keel over and die in mass quantities, it's hard separating out the truly threatening from the merely deeply unpleasant. Thousands of birds have died. Tens of thousands of crabs died. Hundreds of thousands of fish died. But it turns out that cricket populations have been hit worst of all.

Crickets have been bred on farms as pet and zoo animal food. There isn't information on exactly where the plague originated - it was in Europe in 2002 and jumped to North America in 2009 - but when it hit cricket farms the large number of insects all grouped together spread it quickly. The plague paralyzes the cricket before killing it — and at one farm, it's killed around 60 million crickets.

Fortunately for everyone, there's no sign that it affects any other insects or the animals that feed on crickets. It hasn't even jumped cricket species, only affecting the common house cricket. There hasn't been a critical shortage of crickets yet, but many pet owners are concerned. Still the people hit hardest by the plague are the cricket farmers themselves. Some have gone out of business, while others have spent huge amounts of money trying to sterilize their facilities. This involves getting rid of every last cricket, scouring the facility clean, and starting fresh with a guaranteed healthy new population of crickets.

Meanwhile, plans to create sustainable cricket-burgers are on hold.

Via Live Science and The Detroit News.