What's Hoppening?

A grasshopper clings to the wall of a downtown Ada building Wednesday, July 24, 2013.

Richard R. Barron

A rise in the grasshopper population has led to concern in Pontotoc County.

Grasshoppers have not been this bad in this county since 1999, according to OSU Extension Educator for Agriculture Justin McDaniel.

The cause for the grasshoppers being overly populated is the dry weather in the last several years. There is a naturally occurring fungus that helps control the grasshopper population.

With wet weather the fungus becomes stronger. A grasshopper gets wet and the fungus can grow on it and kill it. “One of the problems we’ve had is the last couple of years have been so dry that a lot of that fungus has died. So, this year, we did have a lot of rain, and normally if the fungus were present, it would’ve reduced the grasshopper population,” said McDaniel.

Options for controlling the grasshopper population vary according to location. Farms, vegetable gardens and yards can all be treated differently to handle the problem.

Certain insecticides can work in all of these areas, but certain sprays can also affect crops.

Anyone who does use an insecticide is warned to be careful with them and read the labels. Also, not all insecticides are safe on foods. Any food that has been sprayed should be properly washed before consumption. 

McDaniel points out that a majority of insecticides harm beneficial insects such as ladybugs. 

“We rely very heavily on beneficial insects in and around the home landscape area. You reduce your beneficials, your ladybugs and things like that, then next we have a huge explosion of aphids and other insects that could be just as bad,” he said.

The grasshoppers tend to target specific plants more often than others, such as roses, irises and peaches. Careful plant selection can allow for less frustration with the grasshoppers by selecting a plant they do not eat as often.

Many farmers are having a particularly difficult time with the insects. 

Joe Noble, a local man who grows sells vegetables at the farmers market every year, had quite the challenge this year with the bugs.

“I’m a vegetable farmer and they actually ate some of the whole plants. They put them out of production. All of my cucumbers and my squash, the grasshoppers ate them,” said Noble.

The fungus notorious for killing grasshoppers will grow back, but it will take time, according to McDaniel.

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