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Wyoming Weed and Pest Districts gear up for 2010 grasshopper outbreak

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

As spring approaches, along with the impending grasshopper hatch, most Weed and Pest Districts in Wyoming’s at-risk areas are working on or have finished their 2010 grasshopper control programs.
Even Cheyenne has been in on the planning, with Governor Freudenthal’s announcement that “an early, coordinated and aggressive plan of attack on the migratory grasshopper is essential to prevent depredation to Wyoming’s natural resources.”
Weed and Pest Districts report participation in their 2010 control programs has increased up to three-fold from the 2009 control programs.
“There have been a lot of people talking to me about grasshopper control since last summer,” says Niobrara County Weed and Pest District Supervisor Gail Mahnke. “A lot more of them are getting on board this year, after grasshoppers devastated especially the north end of Niobrara County last year. In last year’s program we had three landowners enroll, and once the rest of them saw the damage and how bad it was, it was too late.”
During 2003’s grasshopper outbreak Niobrara County treated 257,000 acres, and Mahnke says she expects that to at least double, if not triple this year.
“The interest has been unbelievable,” says Johnson County Weed and Pest Supervisor Rod Litzel. “It’s been very high.”
Funding for control programs will come from the conventional state, BLM and local sources, as well as special grants and local emergency reserve accounts.
In a letter to members of the Wyoming Legislature, Freudenthal outlined the budget and funding sources for the state’s $2.685 million grasshopper plan.
Litzel says his county’s fortunate in that a few years ago the Weed and Pest Board decided to put money away in emergency reserve, something with which the County Commissioners agreed.
“That emergency reserve will fund our grasshopper program,” says Litzel, adding that they’ve got the money on hand to handle the program, but will have to start from scratch to rebuild the emergency reserve.
That funding results in a 20 percent payment for Johnson County landowners. On a per-sprayed-deeded-acre basis, Litzel says that comes to roughly 70 cents per deeded acre.
Niobrara County’s Weed and Pest District will also dip into emergency reserves to fund 2010 grasshopper control. The percentage that landowners will end up having to pay is still uncertain, as it depends on how much funding comes from the state and federal sources. Mahnke says she’s applied for an Emergency Insect Grant.
“Right now, with no outside assistance, it will cost our landowners $1.65 per acre to treat,” she says.
She says the District is trying to get Washington, D.C. to send some money down to pay for the federal land in the district, and she thinks they will have a better idea of what that figure will be by the time their cooperative landowner meeting rolls around on March 24.
Mahnke says Niobrara has three of what are referred to as the “Dirty Dozen” of grasshopper species, which cause the most damage. “According to a 2009 APHIS survey, those three make up 75 to 80 percent of the species found here.”
While Johnson County has already completed their sign-up period for 2010, Mahnke says Niobrara County’s will be open through the first week in May.
With 900,000 acres and 389 landowners involved, Johnson County has a two-phase project.
“Dean McClain of Ag Flyers in Torrington will do an aerial application, which will result in 450,000 acres treated in strips, and the District will administer that,” says Litzel. “Another roughly 600,000 acres with a lot of BLM lands we’ve turned over to APHIS and they’ll administer that application because it’s easier to fund through that mechanism.”
With the high amount of acreage in Johnson County, that District requires its landowners to do their own grasshopper population surveys.
“We don’t have the manpower to survey as we should, so they’ll do their own counts and we can verify them if they need it,” says Litzel.
In addition to landowners with large acreages, Litzel says Johnson County has a program for small acreage homeowners with spray programs designed to protect ornamentals and gardens. They can either hire the District to apply Dimilin or purchase bait to apply themselves.
Of course, eastern Wyoming’s Weed and Pest Districts are hoping all their preparation will be for naught, if the timing of weather events works out just right.
Litzel says in Johnson County each landowner had to pay a deposit to sign up with the program.
“Each landowner had to commit 50 cents per acre up front,” he notes of the 70 cents total cost. “And for some folks, that was no small amount of money.”
However, if landowners end up with acres that don’t need to be treated, they will be reimbursed their deposit.
Wyoming Department of Agriculture Weed & Pest Coordinator Slade Franklin encourages landowners to contact their local Weed and Pest Districts if they’re concerned they might have the destructive species of grasshoppers in 2010.
Christy Hemken is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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