I was driving through Jacksonville on a recent evening and heard a loud chirping sound that reminded me of locusts. Do we have locusts in the valley, and if so, is this a new phenomenon? Is it smoke related?

— Gail M., Medford

We checked with our resident bug expert, Oregon State University Extension Service entomologist Rick Hilton, and he can assure you, Gail, there is no plague of locusts descending on the Rogue Valley.

Perhaps the cricket chorus is a little louder, Hilton said, but we don't have locusts.

"We do have grasshoppers that seem to be doing well this year," Hilton said.

As to the increased volume, the smoke seems to have an array of characteristics that change light and temperature. So the sooty sky might serve as soundboard of sorts.

"Smoke brings out all sorts of weird theories," Hilton said. "It might simply be that in rural areas there are higher populations of crickets. I live near Jacksonville, and they can be pretty deafening at times."

— Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.