Las Vegas is no stranger to tourists, but lately it has been hosting visitors of a different kind. Swarms of grasshoppers have taken over large swathes of the city – so much so that they are being picked up on weather radars.
An influx of grasshoppers of such epic proportions is reminiscent of the plague of Egypt. Specifically, the eighth plague, which consisted of a different (albeit related) winged insect: locusts.
To take this Biblical metaphor even further, experts say the magnet drawing these critters to Sin City is a 30-story resort styled as Las Vegas' answer to the pyramids of ancient Egypt. The building's "Luxor Sky Beam" – a giant spotlight The New York Times reports can be seen by Los Angeles' air pilots – is attracting grasshoppers like moths to a flame.
Another explanation could be the unusually wet weather Las Vegas has been having lately. It is not yet August, but already rainfall has exceeded the city's average annual quota. This means plenty of green vegetation for the grasshoppers to gorge on during their yearly migration north.
The density of grasshoppers can be seen at ground level in videos posted online, but it can also be seen from above – there are so many grasshoppers in Las Vegas right now, it is messing with weather radars. According to CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar, one of what looked like two storms in the Vegas area was made of grasshopper swarms, not rainwater.
The clue that the "storm" to the city's right wasn't what it seemed, says Chinchar, was that it wasn't moving in the way rain normally would.
The grasshopper situation might not make things particularly pleasant for Las Vegas residents right not but the insects are, at most, an irritant. Officials say there is no cause for alarm – they do not sting or bite or transmit disease. They are not harmful, which is good news because experts say they may hang around for a few weeks more.
Grasshoppers are not the only insects causing trouble for meteorologists of late. Earlier this year, swarms of flying ants were picked up on weather radars as rain.