Get Hoppin: Plan now for 2010 control
Casper — With shipping season in full swing and nighttime temperatures dipping well below freezing in much of the state, most Wyoming ranchers aren’t giving much thought to grasshoppers.
Now, however, is the best time to begin exploring management options for what is expected to be a large infestation in 2010. Proper planning, according to professionals in the area, is best done via consultation with local resource professionals and neighbors.
“We have completed our adult survey for 2009,” says Bruce Shambaugh of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Plant Protection and Quarantine (APHIS-PPQ) division in Cheyenne. “It’s not good,” says Shambaugh who oversees the program that, among other things, assesses Wyoming grasshopper trends.
Shambaugh says 7.5 million Wyoming acres are estimated to have over nine grasshoppers per square yard. Of that acreage, he says 5.8 million acres are private land. “That 7.5 million acres is about six times the number of acres with that same density from the 2008 surveys,” he says.
The agency also reports infestations at a higher level. “At 15 grasshoppers per square yard we had 2.9 million acres in 2009,” he explains, noting that 2.3 million of those acres are private land. “That acreage at 15 grasshoppers per yard or higher is 10 times more than the same density range for the previous year.” While there aren’t exact figures, Shambaugh says, “I know we had areas that were a heavier density.”
Even if spring 2010 doesn’t provide prime conditions for grasshopper eggs to hatch, Shambaugh says the large number of eggs is likely to result in a large infestation. Land managers with a management plan in place will begin watching for the hatch in early to late May, depending on conditions. “With Dimilin 2L, which I think is everyone’s preferred treatment method of choice,” says Shambaugh, “we have a short window of opportunity.” An insect growth regulator, the insecticide prevents grasshoppers from reaching maturity and laying eggs.
Costs associated with treatment can leave landowners wondering whether or not to pursue control programs. According to University of Wyoming Extension Entomologist Scott Schell, a program called CARMA can aid the decision-making process. CARMA can be accessed online at www.uwyo.edu/grasshoppersupport/Html_pages/carma.htm
“The funny thing about grasshopper dam.age on rangeland,” says Schell, “is rangeland forage is looked at as a low-value commodity until you can’t replace it.” Faced with limited to no grazing opportunities, Schell says the forage becomes increasingly important. According to USDA’s Agricultural Statistics Service, some Wyoming landowners have found themselves in that situation this fall. The agency reported that some ranchers in the more heavily infested areas are feeding hay to replace the forage consumed by grasshoppers.
Schell advises landowners, “I would prepare for the worst with the idea that they are going to be as bad, if not worse than last year. Plan for where to treat, what to treat with, and who will do the treatment.”
Referencing economies of scale, Schell says, “Work with your neighbors.” He adds, “Wyoming doesn’t have that many aerial applicators so now is a good time to work with them to figure out costs, maps and get a bid. They’ll understand if conditions change and you don’t end up spraying.”
New techniques, such as spraying in strips and allowing the grasshoppers to migrate into the treated area, can enhance the effectiveness of control efforts and dramatically lower cost. Some counties are also planning cost share programs to ease the economic burden on the state’s landowners.
“Don’t wait until spring to think about grasshoppers,” says Shambaugh. “We need early involvement from the landowners.”
APHIS-PPQ personnel will meet with Weed and Pest Supervisors, Bureau of Land Management personnel and others in Casper Nov. 4 to better formulate plans surrounding grasshopper management. Town hall meetings will follow that event, with some dates already set. Shambaugh notes Dec. 15 in Thermopolis, Dec. 16 in Ten Sleep, Jan. 12 in Sheridan and Jan. 26 in Greybull. Watch the Roundup or contact your local Weed and Pest District for additional details. Gatherings have been requested in Lusk, Gillette and Douglas, but dates haven’t yet been announced.
“We need to have landowner involvement early on, meaning participation at these meetings and communication with the local Weed and Pest,” says Shambaugh.
Those seeking additional information can contact their local Weed and Pest District or APHIS-PPQ at 307-432-7979 or 866-997-3781. Bruce Shambaugh, Justin Gentle and Boone Herring are available to answer landowner questions regarding grasshoppers. Scott Schell, University of Wyoming Extension Entomologist, can be reached at SSchell@uwyo.edu or at 307-766-2508. Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.