Changing gears: Grasshoppers shift from range to crop lands
Although the trend toward heavy grasshopper infestations continued this year, local Weed and Pest supervisors from around Wyoming say their program focus tended to shift away from rangeland toward alfalfa, crop and pasture lands.
“It seemed like our focus was more on crops grasshoppers this year – that’s where we spent most of our money,” says Washakie County Weed and Pest Supervisor Jarrod Glanz of their 2011 emphasis. “Where we had grasshoppers in rangeland last year there were very few this year – it was the opposite of what I was expecting.”
Washakie County treated 56,000 acres in 2010, while in 2011 they only treated 26,000 acres.
“Most of the grasshoppers we saw hatch this year were right next to the croplands,” notes Glanz.
In Spring 2011, Weed and Pest districts throughout the state continued with early landowner enrollment in cost-share grasshopper control programs.
“We help, we don’t take the lead,” says Big Horn County Weed and Pest Supervisor Ruth Richards of working with landowners. “Our policy was 50 percent cost-share on insecticide, and a dollar per acre cost-share for labor.”
Richards notes that landowners need to have their own grasshopper management plan, and Weed and Pest is very responsive to requests for help developing one with all the options.
Richards says that in 2011 Big Horn County’s grasshopper populations were similar, if not slightly higher, than they were in 2010.
“Our population areas were the same, we just heard from landowners we hadn’t heard from before who had suffered for a year or two and never contacted us,” says Richards. “If they don’t come to us early, in March or April, then we don’t know there’s a problem, and when they come to us in July and August it’s beyond our abilities to help them, because early treatments are affordable and effective, and late season treatments are expensive and less effective.”
“It’s a timing issue,” says Glanz of grasshopper treatments. “When most people around here see grasshoppers they’re up and flying, which means they’re way too big for Dimilin, which is the least expensive treatment.”
Big Horn County treated just under 50,000 acres by plane in Summer 2011, and the landowner-driven spray blocks stretched from the north end of the county to the south. However, Richards says the grasshopper program wasn’t only limited to larger-scale pastures and hay fields – it also included smaller areas of lawn, garden and ornamental situations.
To educate county landowners about the available assistance, the district held one large workshop and 10 community meetings.
“This year we had more funding and catered to smaller acreages, whereas before we didn’t have products for ornamental or residential use,” says Richards.
In Fremont County, Weed and Pest Supervisor Lars Baker says he thinks grasshopper populations were a little lower in 2011, but that the district sprayed many more acres.
“We sprayed a lot of alfalfa, so we didn’t have as much crop loss this year, because we were a little more aware of how much damage the grasshoppers can actually do,” notes Baker.
Baker calls the Fremont County cost-share program “healthy,” adding that the district spent about $200,000 to protect cropland acres.
“We were able to mitigate a lot of economic damage,” he adds.
Big Horn County spent $100,000 in county funds, which were aided by financial support from the Emergency Insect Management Grant from the Wyoming Department of Agriculture. Glanz says that Washakie County’s control program also benefitted from state help.
“We had more landowners participate, but we also had more funding through the state grant, so the cost-share was basically the same,” he says.
In Goshen County, Weed and Pest Supervisor Steve Brill says that although 126,000 acres were protected last spring, only 38,000 were actually treated.
“Many of the areas that were treated in 2010 didn’t need to be treated this year,” says Brill, adding that he’s not yet sure of a 2012 program. To date the district has been able to cost-share through the state grant, providing 50 percent on household treatments, 100 percent on state lands and 50 percent on the pesticide to treat the perimeter on croplands. However, Brill isn’t sure if state funding will be available in 2012.
“We also had great financial and technical support from the Worland Field Office of the BLM,” says Richards of working on federal lands in the Big Horn Basin. “They were great with providing us funding so the plane could continue from the field borders to the rangeland.”
Although many producers who graze livestock on the Bighorn Mountains say that they saw an increase in grasshopper populations at higher elevations on their grazing permits, the Forest Service does not have any strategies to deal with the insects. However, Forest Service Rangeland Management Specialist Scott Gall, who works in the Buffalo Field Office, says he anticipates the federal land management agency would be open to a control program, as it does already work with county Weed and Pest districts on noxious weed control.
“We hope to have more participation next year,” says Richards of her county’s control program. “I think we’ll have a similar grasshopper problem, and more people are becoming aware of the Weed and Pest programs. Anytime January through April is a great time to plan for grasshopper management.”
Glanz says he hopes the grasshopper infestation begins to decline soon.
“Many supervisors can attest to the fact that our whole summers are consumed by grasshopper treatment,” he says.
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.