Grasshoppers worry the West
Grasshopper infestations have taken on mythic tones on the arid prairie of northeastern Wyoming, with tales of their blanketing highways, eating T-shirts off clotheslines and devouring nearly every scrap of vegetation on ranches and farms.
The myth may come closer to reality this summer than at any time in decades in several states in the West and the Plains.
A federal survey of grasshoppers last fall indicated that parts of western Kansas, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Idaho could face costly grasshopper infestations this summer.
Ranchers and farmers as well as federal and municipal pest-control agencies are praying for well-timed cool and wet weather to stifle the young grasshoppers when they hatch around May and June.
In the meantime, they’re scrambling to line up the millions of dollars it will cost to battle an outbreak with aerial insecticide.
Grasshoppers can provide ecological benefits, serving as a food source for other animals. However, some pest species can eat their body weight daily in vegetation and can waste up to six times more by dropping forage to the ground.
Parts of western Kansas and several other states could face costly infestations of grasshoppers this summer.