If you take a road trip through eastern Oregon this summer, chances are you’ll splatter some grasshoppers on your windshield.
Last year, a record 10 million acres of rangeland in 18 Oregon counties suffered damaging levels of grasshopper infestations.
While there are plenty of grasshoppers and crickets in Deschutes, Crook and Jefferson counties, it’s nothing compared to parts of Eastern Oregon where more than 20 grasshoppers per square yard were counted.
“Some areas of Malheur County, they ate all the food out there,” said Todd Adams, Oregon Department of Agriculture Grasshopper Survey Coordinator. “There was concern about the antelope starving to death. They were left to eating sagebrush which they don’t normally do.”
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Grasshopper outbreaks often follow or coincide with drought years. 2020 and 2021 were record years for grasshopper damage to rangelands and crops.
The problem is so bad, the Oregon Legislature approved $5 million to help farmers combat the severe grasshopper season expected this year.
Approved treatments for all pest grasshoppers and Mormon crickets are with the growth insecticide diflubenzuron.
Diflubenzuron is one of a class of insecticides that work by disrupting normal insect development by inhibiting the synthesis of chitin in the insect exoskeleton.
When used according to label directions, diflubenzuron is low-risk for people, pets and livestock plus honeybees.
The treatment is applied aerially because it is quick and efficient for treating rangeland.
Using the “reduced agent/area treatment” strategy, the pesticide is applied at rates below label rates and only every other pass. This leaves alternating strips of lands that are treated and untreated. This way, pesticide use is minimized.
“These grasshoppers and crickets are native so eradication is never to the objective of treatment. The idea is to suppress them down to lower numbers to help alleviate the damage and impact they have on the landscape,” Adams said.
For more information about grasshopper and cricket control programs, visit the Oregon Department of Agriculture website.