WWPC Treats Mormon Cricket Outbreak in Natrona and Converse Counties
During the second week of June, Edgerton experienced a swarm of thousands of Mormon crickets. Luckily, they’ve moved onto rangeland and out of people’s way, but it’s still important to understand this situation could have been much worse.
Wyoming State Plant Health Director Bruce Shambaugh, in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), indicated a 2022 survey estimated Converse and Natrona counties would have a cricket hotspot this year, among a few other counties across the state.
With this infestation, the crickets are present in larger-than-normal densities. But, not so many they are a real danger. A big outbreak is always possible, and if they were near crops it would have been a different story for this surge.
“Grasshoppers and Mormon crickets can cause serious economic losses to agricultural resources,” Shambaugh stated. “Impacts vary by county, but in hardest hit areas, it is possible to see heavy defoliation, lack of forage in rangelands and significant damage to croplands.”
Monitoring the situation
The crickets are expected to mate in the next two to three weeks and die shortly after. In the meantime, Natrona County Weed and Pest, Converse County Weed and Pest and APHIS are closely monitoring the situation and treating the outbreak.
“This type of stuff doesn’t happen every year, but it’s fairly awe inspiring when we see it,” said Matt Jolivet, supervisor for the Natrona County Weed and Pest. “We have the tools and resources to treat them, especially when it comes to human health and safety.”
Jolivet mentioned there’s a lot of variability in treating these outbreaks, especially when it comes to the land use of areas affected.
One big challenge with Mormon cricket outbreaks is the pests can band together, migrate up to one mile per day and change directions without any reason. Therefore, communication is always key when dealing with this sort of infestation.
“With the help of APHIS and informed landowners, the treatment in Converse County worked really well,” said Jess Butler, assistant supervisor for Converse County Weed and Pest.
“Luckily, every county in Wyoming has a weed and pest district to make a successful management plan for any threat that might come their way,” stated Butler.
Funding for outbreaks
With the potential for much worse outbreaks of Mormon crickets and grasshoppers across the state, funding for these emergencies needs to be consistently available instead of rushing to find available funds.
“Weed and pest districts do a great job of trying to plan for outbreaks like this, but controlling big outbreaks can get really expensive really quickly,” said Lindsey Woodward, Wyoming Department of Agriculture weed and pest program coordinator.
“A lot of this infestation is on federal land. Funding an outbreak like this on the fly is difficult because of the long process partners like APHIS have to go through to plan and be approved to put dollars on the ground,” Woodward concluded.
WWPC is comprised of 23 weed and pest districts in the state of Wyoming. The council works closely with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture and the University of Wyoming to keep current with the latest technology and research available in the ongoing management of noxious weeds and pests.