Farmers brace for grasshopper invasion

By | May 26, 2010

Hordes of grasshoppers jump in the grass beside a barn in Tooele, Utah, last June. Tooele went through a severe invasion.A major infestation of grasshoppers could descend this summer on Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska and the Dakotas, damaging rangeland and crops, ranchers, farmers and scientists say.

In some places, this summer could be the worst for grasshoppers since the mid-1980s, said Charles Brown, a grasshopper suppression specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“There is the potential for widespread outbreaks this summer,” Brown said. “We could see grasshopper levels several times of what you would see in a normal year.”

Less severe but significant outbreaks are possible in Nevada, Utah and Idaho, according to the USDA.

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The threat assessment is based on results from the USDA’s annual survey of adult grasshopper populations conducted in late summer, Brown said. High numbers recorded last year were part of a natural buildup of grasshopper populations that occurs periodically. Those adult grasshoppers laid eggs that could hatch bugs that cause a much bigger problem this summer, he said.

Last year was trouble enough, said Marge West, whose family operates a 10,000-acre cattle, wheat and alfalfa ranch northwest of Gillette, Wyo.

“Last year we lost probably a third of our rangeland,” said West, 74. “If it’s any worse this year, we’re going to have a real disaster.”

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