Grasshopper increase in Midwest

RAPID CITY, S.D. — In areas of the Black Hills, you may have noticed an increase in a little pest called the grasshopper, and yes, it matters.

The grasshopper is to the American West what the cicada is to the east. The increase in grasshoppers is the result of ideal conditions. A mild winter and dry hot summer have increased their survival rates.

Now, a drought is forcing grasshoppers to find food wherever they can, like crops.

“Usually they just hang out in our grassland ecosystem, our range, pasture, that’s typically where they’re going to be,” said SDSU Extension Entomology Field Specialist, Patrick Wagner. “But on a dry year when the grasslands start to dry down, they’re gonna be looking for other food sources. So anything that’s green. So then that’s when we have issues with them moving into row crops, going into urban communities and feeding on people’s gardens.”

While grasshoppers eating crops is a concern, the pest that follows is even more of a concern. That would be the blister beetle, which keeps the grasshopper population in check with the larva feeding on grasshopper eggs. They also affect ranchers and farmers.

These blister beetles enjoy alfalfa and hay bales, but they contain a chemical called cantharadin. When ingested by cattle and livestock, it can kill them.

Fortunately, blister beetles here and around the Midwest have relatively low levels of the chemical, and are less of a concern than those found in the south.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News