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Grasshopper outlook strikes fear on Western range

Idaho is on the list of states that could face grasshopper infestations nearing epic proportions this summer.

A federal survey of adult grasshoppers last fall indicated that parts of Idaho, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Wyoming 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 are found across the United States, but outbreaks of pest species are most common in the Plains and Western states. Different species range from a length of under an inch to more than 3 inches.

They provide some ecological benefits, serving as a food source for other animals. However, some pest species are capable of eating their body weight daily in vegetation and can waste up to six times more by dropping forage to the ground.

Making matters worse is the prevalence of migratory species in the latest surveys – insects that can fly 60 miles in a day.

Regionwide, surveys predict at least 48 million acres of outbreak-level infestation this summer.

“In some states, we may see some of the most severe grasshopper outbreaks that we’ve seen in nearly 30 years,” said Charles Brown, the national grasshopper suppression program manager at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

No government agency keeps a comprehensive tally of the economic damage from grasshoppers, but the cost of spray programs can exceed a million dollars for a single county.

About The Associated Press


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