Thursday, October 23, 2014

ASK JODIE: Grasshoppers gnawing away at farmers’ patience

By JODIE GARCIA, Ask Jodie | 8/6/2014

QUESTION: Why are grasshoppers so bad for area farmers this year?

— Gene, Williamsburg

QUESTION: Why are grasshoppers so bad for area farmers this year?

— Gene, Williamsburg

ANSWER: It all boils down to weather.

“Grasshoppers cause some damage every year, but are very abundant this year,” Darren Hibdon, extension agent with Frontier Extension District No. 11, told me via e-mail.

Outbreaks typically are preceded by years of hot dry summers and warm autumns, which we’ve had since 2011, Hibdon said.

The warm fall temps allow grasshoppers more time to feed and lay eggs, he said. And boy, do they lay eggs. Hibdon said a female lays an average of 200 eggs per season, and sometimes as many as 400 eggs.

Dry weather also increases the survival of nymphs and adults when they hatch the following year, Hibdon said.

“So, as you can see, depending on our summer and fall weather, we are maybe setting up for an even larger population next year,” Hibdon wrote.

Not the best news, but as I like to say, things could always be worse — like the grasshopper plague of 1874 when millions of Rocky Mountain locusts swarmed Kansas and several surrounding states, according to an online article from the Kansas Historical Society.

“Crops were eaten out of the ground, as well as the wool from live sheep and clothing off people’s backs. Paper, tree bark and even wooden tool handles were devoured,” the article said. “Hoppers were reported to have been several inches deep on the ground and locomotives could not get traction because the insects made the rails too slippery.”

Yuck.

Have a question about your community? Ask Jodie Garcia at askjodie@ottawaherald.com or call (785) 242-4700.

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