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Area Residents Continue Battles With Grasshoppers

“There are way too many!” That’s a common expression regarding grasshoppers when a person walks through a grass field or even in their backyard.

Many area residents wonder if this is some sort of local record for the most grasshoppers ever in a season.

Meghan Edwards, VISTA at the Fort Peck Community College’s Extension office, explained there really isn’t a concrete way to determine which summer featured the most grasshoppers in the area.

“It is a remarkably bad year as was last year,” Edwards said. “Researchers measure grasshopper populations by counting the number of individuals that hop out of the grass when you walk three feet forward, and anything higher than 15 is the highest category. We are way beyond 15 grasshoppers per square yard.”

Wendy Becker, Extension agent in Roosevelt County, says the experts that she relies on regarding grasshoppers include Dave Branson of the Sidney ARS station, Gary Adams of the APHIS rangeland grasshoppers and MSU entomologist Kevin Wanner.

“I will say that the grasshoppers pockets in our region have been exploding and spotty. We are probably seeing even more this year because of the grasshoppers that laid eggs last year and then weren’t able to be controlled this year,” Becker said. “There was a grasshopper meeting in late March this last year and they all three warned us to watch out for grasshoppers after Memorial Day and control them when they are young.”

Officials note that it’s difficult to determine whether the large grasshopper population will continue throughout the next few summers as well.

“Grasshopper outbreaks are hard to predict. Because many species migrate, the numbers aren’t cyclical like cicada populations. The past two years have been bad because of drought. Grasshoppers like hot, dry conditions,” Edwards said. “At the same time, the cool temperatures and rain we had in early June made the summer worse because there was more food for the nymphs after they first hatched.”

Becker added, “Of course though grasshoppers fly (at least the ones that we are all seeing and concerned with), and the populations have exploded. Even those that tried pesticides themselves are having control issues because the grasshoppers will just move over to the neighbors until they come back over.”

Becker explained grasshoppers can eat up to 50 percent of their weight so you can see so much damage. Now is the time that they are looking to lay their eggs. “So, if you see so many now, imagine what it could be next year. Grasshoppers want to lay in dry hot soil. If we keep some of our lawns and fields wet, it can discourage egg laying, but not everyone can do that (dryland farming) not should we try and flood our lawns at the end of the summer season. We want to keep watering trees/shrubs/lawns but less and less now at the end of the growing season. Plus this problem is a whole region problem! If we have a cold wet spring, that should help with egg kill as well.”

Edwards added that many factors at the end of the summer and in the fall could impact how well this year’s grasshoppers reproduce and whether their offspring survive into next summer. She encourages readers to check the outbreak forecast website from the USDA-ARS facility in Sidney at https://www. mt/northern-plains-agricultural- research-laboratory/ pest-management-research/ p m r u - d o c s /g ra ss h o p pers-their-biology-identification- and-management/outbreak- and-survey-info/ outbreak-and-survey-info/ As far as what to do with stripped trees and whether the tree will bounce back, Edwards said that it probably depends on what species of tree and the amount of damage. “My instinct as a gardener, but not a grasshopper expert, is to care for them as you normally would. Full grown trees are quite hardy and as long as the bark hasn’t been too badly damaged, they should be fine next year,” Edwards said.

If you’d like to mitigate grasshopper damage in future years, she suggests growing berry bushes and other plants that attract birds and mowing around the trees you want to protect.

“Survival of trees seems to be a hard question to answer. From last year, some of the trees came back and some didn’t,” Becker said. “Some depended on the age of the trees and the grasshopper pressure. It’s very hard to be able to tell if they will survive.”

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