Grasshopper Numbers Declining Across Nebraska

By: Megan Johnson Email
By: Megan Johnson Email

The high heat and lack of rain in the state has already conjured comparisons to the 1930's, but one thing Nebraska hasn't experienced that followed that drought is a booming grasshopper population.

Entomologists say grasshopper numbers depend heavily on the previous adult generation and weather conditions at hatching time.

"Cold wet springs really hurt numbers, hot dry springs like we had usually cause bigger numbers," says Dr. Wyatt Hoback, a biology professor at the University of Nebraska Kearney.

But officials say Nebraska grasshopper numbers are down and still declining as the drought wears on.

"The range is so dry that grasshoppers are not able to survive on what little grass there is," says Dr. Ron Seymour, UNL Extension Educator in Adams County.

There are about 100 species of grasshoppers in Nebraska and they eat different types of plants, so hungry grasshoppers won't necessarily move from the pastures into gardens or into crops.

"Of those [species] only about 5-10 cause any real economic problems out on the range land," says Hoback.

Seymour says that ranchers in particular need to be aware of grasshopper numbers, by doing their own surveys and checking the numbers from the Department of Ag. He says 8 to 12 grasshoppers per square yard can eat as much as a cow.

"If they're finding a significant number of grasshoppers in their pastures then they're probably going to need to spray," says Seymour.

While low populations this year are good for dwindling grassland, biologists say they're not good for everyone.

"Low grasshopper numbers may impact turkeys, quail, pheasants," says Hoback. "Birds like that that feed on insects to get enough nutrient reserves for the next year."

But with little food to sustain this year's adults, officials say next year will likely see small numbers again.

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