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Grasshopper Infestation Can Devastate Crops and Gardens

According to a USDA grasshopper survey at the end of summer 2009, which predicts the insect population for the following year, several western states, including Montana, Idaho, South Dakota, Wyoming, and Nebraska, could experience the heaviest infestation of these damaging insects since 1985 over the next few years, resulting in millions of dollars in crop and pasture losses. With the numbers of grasshoppers anticipated to reach sixty insects per square yard in some areas, ranchers, farmers, and gardeners are bracing for an outbreak.

Help can come in the form of cool damp weather in the spring, which could kill some of the baby grasshoppers, or nymphs. But with warm, dry weather, many Western farmers are concerned that, like last year, the damage may be substantial. According to popular myth, swarms of grasshoppers can eat a t-shirt off a clothesline, and the paint right off your barn.

Grasshopper infestations are a part of life in the West, with outbreaks cycling up rapidly for two or three years, and then falling rapidly when the food runs out. But sometimes a confluence of weather and a large hatch can make for a “summer of the grasshopper,” a potentially economically devastating circumstance. Which begs the question, what can be done to help avoid some of these losses?

There are methods for combating these hungry invaders ranging from organic to extreme chemical suppression. What is used depends on the situation. For the backyard or organic gardener, a product such as Nolo Bait, which contains an active disease organism that infects then kills the hoppers, may be the best choice. This product has been approved for organic production, is not harmful to humans, pets, or wildlife, and can be easily applied by hand or dry spreader. The minimum application rate is 1 pound per acre, per application, and is safe to apply even near waterways and environmentally sensitive areas.

For a more aggressive approach, there are chemical alternatives that may be applied either by the consumer or by a commercial applicator. Which product to use depends on many factors, such as the type of crop or grass, the area being treated, and the severity of the insect infestation. It is important to use the proper application rates and correct formula for the job. At Lakeland Feeds, we have experienced staff on hand to help you decide how to deal with pests such as grasshoppers. Whether you need Nolo Bait or a professional application, we have the products and services on hand to get the job done. Give us a call before your garden, pasture, or ranch is infested with these damaging insects.