*****Day of the Grasshopper Looms*****

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Day of the Grasshopper Looms.

(emphasis mine) [my comment]

MARCH 29, 2010
Day of the Grasshopper Looms
Western Farmers, Ranchers Worry an Expected Infestation Could Ravage Crops
By STEPHANIE SIMON

DENVER—Farmers and ranchers across the West are bracing for a grasshopper infestation that could devastate millions of acres of crops and grazing land.

Over the coming weeks, federal officials say, grasshoppers will likely hatch in bigger numbers than any year since 1985. Hungry swarms caused hundreds of millions of dollars in damage that year when they devoured corn, barley, alfalfa, beets—even fence posts and the paint off the sides of barns.

A federal survey of 17 states taken last fall found critically high numbers of adult grasshoppers in parts of Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. Each mature female lays hundreds of eggs. So "the population could be very, very high this year," said Charles Brown, who manages grasshopper suppression for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Ryan Fieldgrove is dreading the influx.

A rancher near Buffalo, Wyo., Mr. Fieldgrove was enjoying a banner year last summer when, seemingly out of nowhere, crawling carpets of hoppers marched onto his rangeland—a harbinger of this year's infestation. In three weeks, they had eaten every blade of tender, nutritious grass on his 10,000 acres. They also ate his wife's lilac bushes. "They took it all," Mr. Fieldgrove said.


Unable to find enough grass, Mr. Fieldgrove's 200 young calves began to lose weight.
He ended up selling them at auction several weeks earlier—and 60 pounds per calf lighter—than planned. And he had to import hay to feed the mother cows he kept on his ranch for the winter.

The grasshoppers cost Mr. Fieldgrove about $30,000 in profit, he said—and local agricultural officials are warning him it could be worse this year.

To try to get ahead of the problem, Wyoming has allocated $2.7 million for suppression efforts, including aerial spraying of the pesticide Dimilin, which is fatal to maturing grasshoppers. But Wyoming's congressional delegation—concerned that's not enough—demanded federal help.

"It does not appear as though the USDA has any sense of urgency in the face of this pending plague," the delegation wrote in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack last month. [The USDA is too busy predicting record harvests to worry about things like grasshoppers]

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal this month weighed in as well, writing a public letter urging county, state and federal officials to join forces to prevent "economic and ecological damage."
The forecast, he said, suggests an infestation "with disastrous implications."


A grasshopper clings to the grasses of the Carrizo Plain National Monument in California.

Mr. Brown, of the USDA, said the department is aware of the severity of the problem but used up nearly all its $5.6 million grasshopper budget last fall counting the insect population—an annual task—and has no money to spray swaths of federally-owned range and grassland [This is absolutely hilarious]. He said the department is looking at ways to boost funding.


If the infestation reaches the level of the 1985 outbreak, he said, federal suppression efforts could cost $40 million.

They're also hoping for help from Mother Nature. A cold, damp spell in late May or June could wipe out a good number of the baby grasshoppers, known as nymphs. But if the weather is warm and dry, "I don't think we'll grow a crop in this part of the country," said Pete Lumsden, a farmer in Loring, Mont.

Grasshopper infestations tend to be cyclical; the numbers mount rapidly for two or three years and then plunge back to normal when the insects run out of food or a disease spreads through overcrowded swarms. Last year was fairly bad in several Western states, so this summer could well be the crest, after which the numbers will fall, entomologists said.


That's little comfort to Mr. Lumsden, who hopes to harvest 2,200 acres of spring wheat and barley this year—if the grasshoppers don't get it first.
"It's so very vulnerable," he said.



Trib.com reports about the 2010 Grasshopper plague.

BLM advises county; delegation asks feds for help
Grasshopper plague, 2010
By TOM MORTON - Star-Tribune staff writer
Posted: Wednesday, February 24, 2010 12:00 am


Grasshopper infestations this year probably will be twice as bad as in 2009 throughout much of Wyoming, the local manager of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management said Tuesday.

...
Grasshoppers infested about 15 million acres of private, federal, tribal and state lands last year, according to a survey compiled by the Cheyenne office of the U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service and shown to the commissioners.

...
Coincidentally, Wyoming's congressional delegation pleaded for federal help last week for the looming problem.

U.S. Rep. Cynthia Lummis and Sens. Mike Enzi and John Barrasso wrote to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack asking for more flexibility in combatting the grasshopper infestations.

The USDA recently allocated $54,294 to Wyoming to fight the European grapevine moth, which doesn't exist in the state [Again, hilarious. The USDA is a joke.], the delegation wrote. The lawmakers asked that the state be allowed to reallocate the money to the grasshopper fight.


Most producers who lost business because of grasshoppers were ineligible for disaster assistance last year, and this year could be much worse, they wrote.

"Forecast maps indicated that 160 million acres of western lands will be impacted by grasshoppers. The resulting damage to crops and livestock forage could be catastrophic," they wrote.

The Christian Science Monitor reports about 2010 grasshopper invasion.

Grasshopper invasion: just what Western states don't want
The grasshopper is expected to swarm Western states this summer in record numbers, gobbling up grasslands and costing ranchers millions of dollars.
By Michael B. Farrell, Staff writer / April 6, 2010


An adult male migratory grasshopper is seen near Wheatland, Wyoming, shown in this file photo. Grasshoppers are expected to swarm Western states this summer in record numbers.

They're voracious, they're costly, and they're coming — again. Grasshoppers are expected to swarm Western states this summer in record numbers, gobbling up grasslands and costing cattle owners millions of dollars.

...
Ranchers are already coping with a tough economy and climbing oil prices. Now, they're hoping that a cool, wet spring will wipe out many of the young grasshoppers, or nymphs, before they're old enough to start their collective grasslands binge [which isn't happening so far].

The number of grasshoppers was intolerably high last year, says Kim Baker, a rancher in Hot Springs, Mont., and president of the Montana Cattlemen's Association. But she anticipates even more this summer.

"We're going to get hit really, really hard," Ms. Baker says. "A hundred or 200 grasshoppers will eat what a cow eats."
...


... In the 1980s, a grasshopper outbreak was so bad that it compelled the US government to begin a grasshopper management program within the USDA.

Charles Brown, who manages that program, recently told the Associated Press that this time around, "We may see some of the most severe grasshopper outbreaks that we've seen in nearly 30 years."

The Examiner reports that grasshopper infestation feared worst in decades for the Midwest.

Grasshopper infestation feared worst in decades for the Midwest
April 5, 8:50 PMhttp://image.examiner.com/img/greydot.gifRaleigh Strange News Examinerhttp://image.examiner.com/img/greydot.gifDJ Pruitt


Grasshoppers may threaten midwest crops


Like extras in a B movie; farmers in the Midwest are gearing up to fight an invasion.
An invasion of grasshoppers, that could threaten our food sources here in Raleigh, and throughout the US. Results from a federal survey conducted last fall indicated that the grasshopper infestation in Idaho, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana could be the costliest in years.

Grasshoppers live all across the United states, with varieties ranging from under 1" to over 3". Even though they do provide a food source for other animals; their benefits are greatly outweighed by the fact that
many species can eat their body weight in food per day, and waste up to 6 times their weight in the forage dropped on the ground. And to make matters even worse, many can fly up to 60 miles per day.

[Notice the timing of the last truly epic grasshopper infestation: right in the middle of the great depression. THIS IS NOT AN ACCIDENT. During economic downturns, farmers and governments cut corners in their preventative spending, allowing pest infestations to reach levels they normally never could.]


In 1931, swarms of grasshoppers devastated millions of acres of crops in the American heartland.
When grasshoppers become part of a swarm; their bodies actually change [and they are called LOCUST]. Their wings and jaws grow larger; enabling them to fly further and eat more. These 1931 swarms were reported to be so thick that they blocked out the sun, and people could shovel the insects with a scoop. Fields were left devastated, totally stripped of all vegetation.

Reports claim that
when grasshoppers are swarming, they eat fenceposts, clothing hanging on clotheslines, and even the paint off buildings. More disturbingly, they totally devastate crops; including foods we consume, and foods that livestock consumes. During peak infestations, grasshopper populations may reach more than 60 insects per square yard; with insects swarming over cars, roads, and grass.

< span style="color:#c00000;">Expect Spectacular Fishing in Western States This Summer

Fieldandstream.com reports that Grasshopper Plague Could Mean Spectacular Fishing.

April 19, 2010
Grasshopper Plague Could Mean Spectacular Fishing in Western States This Summer

It seems like ranchers and farmers in the West can't get a break. From drought, to hail, to floods, and fires, they're always dealing with some natural disaster.
In 2010, the impending plague involves grasshoppers. In fact, the United States Department of Agriculture predicts that certain states like Montana, Idaho, and Wyoming will see the largest infestation of grasshoppers in 25 years or more. Only an unusually damp and cool late spring might stem the impending problem. And that doesn't appear to be happening. Unfortunately, the hoppers could negatively impact cattle grazing, as well as crop production, in a way we all eventually pay for.

Leave it to fly fishers, however, to find a silver lining in all of this.



I'm not a grasshopper entomologist, but I think I can safely assume that the swarming insects will flutter en masse into rivers like the Bighorn, the Yellowstone, and The Snake. In other words,
the trout don't know it yet, but a veritable smorgasbord of protein is about to rain from the sky. In fact, we're already seeing hoppers popping along some Colorado rivers right now, months earlier than normal.

There is nothing I like better than watching the slow, deliberate rise of a trout eating a grasshopper fly. If that's something that floats your boat too, and you were thinking about a western fishing jaunt, I'd encourage you to plan for July and August 2010. It's going to go off, maybe in epic proportions. And many a western community would appreciate the visit.

Montanaflyfishingguides.com reports about the 2010 Grasshopper Infestation.

2010 Grasshopper Infestation
On April 1, 2010

USDA 2010 Hopper Prediction

Great news for those planning your Montana fly fishing trip for late July and August. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has just reported that this summer is in for a severe grasshopper infestation. ... See image.



...
So while ranchers and farmers prepare for the massive infestation, fly fishers should rejoice and make sure to tie up some Chaos Hoppers and Chubby Chernobyl's. There's only one catch you have to be in Montana this summer to fully appreicate it!

Dry weather could worsen grasshopper attack

Ktar.com reports that grasshoppers invading the Valley.

Grasshoppers invading the Valley
by Daphne Adato/KTAR (April 16th, 2010 @ 2:50am)

PHOENIX - Grasshoppers are invading the Valley.

A drought mixed in with this year's wet winter made conditions perfect for grasshopper eggs to hatch.

"Instead of 20 percent of the eggs hatching we'll get 100 percent of the eggs," said John Herity, who owns All Out Pest Control.

Although there are some steps you can take to limit the grasshoppers, Herity said it is something people will just have to deal with.

"To keep them off your house you'd be best to get rid of any foliage, any grasses or weeds that are on the house, get rid of all that stuff," he said.

Herity predicts this will the worst grasshopper outbreak since 1998.

White Court Star reports that dry weather could worsen grasshopper attack.

Dry weather could worsen grasshopper attack
Posted By Mike Constable
Posted 20 hours ago

WHITECOURT — Pest specialists are predicting that if dry conditions persist this spring, farmers could face an increase in grasshoppers and lower crop yields in fall.

"A lot of it depends on what the weather situation is like this spring. If it stays like this then grasshoppers are going to be a pest in the area," said Dr. Lloyd Dosdall, professor of entomology at the University of Alberta.


The professor said moist conditions help spread fungi that will often destroy the unhatched eggs, hatchlings and adults. However, with the Alberta Department of Agriculture predicting dry soil conditions this year, it is possible the fungi may not have as large an impact on the number of grasshoppers that successfully hatch.


Dosdall said the two pests to look out for are the clear-winged grasshopper (Camnula pellucida) and the two-striped grasshopper (Melanoplus bivittatus), both of which are common to the area and can impact cereal and canola crops. The clear-wing grasshopper is yellow and brown in colour, with clear, speckled wings, and the two-striped grasshopper has two pronounced stripes that run along its back, and one stripe down each hind leg.

"Those are the species characteristic of outbreaks," Dosdall said, adding that grasshoppers avoid eating oats, but prefer other common crops. "Bivittatus likes to eat canola, and clear-wings prefer cereals, so between them they have the bases covered."

Alberta Agriculture states that even low concentrations of grasshoppers can produce large losses. Five two-striped grasshoppers per square metre of wheat can result in a yield reduction of up to 25 per cent, and eight two-striped grasshoppers per square metre can reduce the yield by as much as 62 per cent. Even a minimal infestation of the pests can have significant economic impact.

Locust are swarming grasshoppers

Wikipedia reports that locust and grasshopper.

Swarming behaviour

There is no taxonomic difference between locust and grasshopper species, and in English the term "locust" is used for grasshopper species that change morphologically and behaviourally on crowding, to form swarms or hopper bands (of immature stages). These changes, or phase polymorphism, were first identified by Sir Boris Petrovich Uvarov, who studied the desert locust: whose solitary and gregarious phases had previously been thought of as separate species. Charles Valentine Riley, Norman Criddle were also involved in the understanding and destructive control of locusts. Research at Oxford University has identified that swarming behaviour is a response to overcrowding. Increased tactile stimulation of the hind legs causes an increase in levels of serotonin. This causes the locust to change color, eat much more, and breed much more easily. The transformation of the locust to the swarming variety is induced by several contacts per minute over a four-hour period. It is estimated that the largest swarms have covered hundreds of square miles and consisted of many billions of locusts.

Wikipedia reports about Locusts.

Locusts

Locusts are several species of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae that sometimes form very large groups (swarms); these can be highly destructive and migrate in a more or less coordinated way. Thus, these grasshoppers have solitary and gregarious (swarm) phases. Locust swarms can cause massive damage to crops. Important locust species include Schistocerca gregaria and Locusta migratoria in Africa and the Middle East, and Schistocerca piceifrons in tropical Mexico and Central America (Mesoamerica). Other grasshoppers important as pests (which, unlike true locusts, do not change colour when they form swarms) include Melanoplus species (like M. bivittatus
[two-striped grasshopper], M. femurrubrum and M. differentialis) and Camnula pellucida [clear-winged grasshopper] in North America; ...

My reaction: Farmers and ranchers across the West are bracing for a grasshopper infestation that could devastate millions of acres of crops and grazing land.


1) Over the coming weeks, grasshoppers will likely hatch in bigger numbers than any year since 1985.

2) A federal survey of 17 states taken last fall found critically high numbers of adult grasshoppers in parts of Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. Since each mature female lays hundreds of eggs, the population could be very high this year.

3) Many grasshopper species can eat their body weight in food per day, and waste up to 6 times their weight in the forage dropped on the ground. Even worse, many species can fly up to 60 miles per day.

4) Charles Brown, who manages the USDA's grasshopper program, recently told the Associated Press that this time around, "We may see some of the most severe grasshopper outbreaks that we've seen in nearly 30 years."

5) Conditions have been perfect for grasshopper eggs to hatch.

6) Only an unusually damp and cool late spring might stem the impending problem, and that doesn't appear to be happening.


Potentially devastating scale of grasshopper outbreak

1) Grasshoppers infested about 15 million acres of western lands in 2009.

2) Forecast maps indicated that 160 million acres of western lands will be impacted by grasshoppers in 2010.

3) To put these numbers into context, in 2008/09 US farmers planted 55.7 million acres of wheat, 91.0 million acres of wheat, and 74.7 million acres of wheat.

4) If the weather is warm and dry, a large part of the Midwest won't be growing anything.


Locust are Swarming grasshoppers

1) Locusts are actually a form of grasshopper that appears when grasshopper populations appear in high densities

2) When grasshoppers become part of a swarm; their bodies actually change. Their wings and jaws grow larger; enabling them to fly further and eat more.

3) In 1931, grasshopper swarms were reported to be so thick that they blocked out the sun. These swarming grasshoppers ate everything fenceposts, clothing hanging on clotheslines, and even the paint off buildings. Fields were left devastated, totally stripped of all vegetation.

Epic grasshopper outbreak is not a coincidence

Notice the timing of the last truly epic grasshopper infestation: 1931, right in the middle of the great depression. THIS IS NOT AN ACCIDENT. During economic downturns, farmers and governments cut corners in their preventative spending, allowing pest infestations to reach levels they normally never could. This inaction is the true cause behind spectacular pest outbreaks.

USDA inaction in face of obvious threat

1) The USDA doesn't have any sense of urgency in the face of the pending grasshopper plague. This is probably because USDA officials are too busy predicting a record soybean harvest next fall (see record soybean harvest forecast) and spreading stories of an (imaginary) wheat glut (see biggest Wheat Glut Since 2002 Means Slump May Worsen).

2) The USDA used all its $5.6 million grasshopper budget last fall counting the insect population and has no money to spray swaths of federally-owned range and grassland. (I find this absolutely hilarious)

3) The USDA has recently allocated $54,294 to Wyoming to fight the European grapevine moth, which doesn't exist in the state. Unfortunately, there was no money to fight grasshoppers which, according to the USDA, will soon devastate the state. (Again, hilarious incompetence)

------------------ --------------


Conclusion: When I was reporting on the harvest problems last year, I noted that many parts of the Midwest were seeing their worst outbreak in years and highlighted the potential for grasshopper trouble in 2010.

Note: Grasshopper infestations grow exponentially worse every year until some weather event breaks the cycle. If all the eggs being laid by grasshoppers right now survive the winter unharmed, there will be a grasshopper infestation of biblical proportion next year.

But don't worry everyone, the USDA is already predicting record harvest next fall, especial soybeans, and there is no way the USDA could possibly be wrong. (extremely heavy sarcasm)

On that note, it will be interesting to see what the USDA does with its crop predictions as grasshopper swarms travel the countryside devouring fields. Will they be forced to lower estimates in the face of such a visible problem?

In any case, unless farmers get lucky (and their luck hasn't been good of late) and some weather event reduces the problem, 2010 already looks set to be an even more miserable year than 2009. On the bright side, there should be some spectacular fishing in Western States this Summer.

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2 Responses to *****Day of the Grasshopper Looms*****

  1. sharonsj says:

    Ineptness aside, can we finally admit to global warming and a dash of Armageddon? More reasons to stock up on everything.

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