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Northwest Braces for Grasshopper Outbreak

Scientists in the Pacific Northwest are bracing for what’s shaping up to be the worse grasshopper outbreak in 30 years. The USDA reports it found a dramatic increase in the number of grasshopper eggs during surveys last fall. When combined with a relatively mild spring, the conditions are perfect for a major grasshopper infestation.

“In some areas there will indeed be masses, and there will be big masses of grasshoppers,” said Richard Zack, an associate professor of Entomology at Washington State University. “Not biblical proportions, but big masses of grasshoppers moving through areas.”

Last summer, grasshopper infestations wiped out 7,000 acres of grassland in southeastern Oregon's high desert. The most affected areas will be crops near rangelands, and vacant farm land where grasshoppers tend to live unmolested. Experts say this winged insect can travel from 30 to 50 miles a day looking for food. The critical areas projected to be at risk in Washington state are lands that lie in the high desert regions near Othello, Yakima and the Tri-Cities.

There are also warnings for an outbreak of what’s commonly known as the “Mormon Cricket,” an insect that doesn’t fly, but travels in tight packs by the tens of thousands devouring everything in its path.

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“They are what we call phytophagous which means they eat plants. And they will eat almost all parts of the plants and virtually any plant that’s there. So this would be like biblical, where when they come through an area, they just start eating everything,” said Zack. “There are massive numbers of them, and then when they exit that area, pretty much anything green is gone.”

The grasshopper infestation is expected to hit its peak in late July and early August as summertime heat dries up open rangeland, while nearby crops are just hitting their stride. Federal agents are looking into pesticide options to control these insects.

For a USDA map of the projected infestations, see:
Note to Producers/Assignment Editors: B-Roll of grasshoppers and crickets, as well as SOT’s with Zack are available for download at this link Please courtesy WSU News Service. Formats for radio and television include .avi, .mov, .mp4, .flv, .wav, .mp3. Look for “drrichardzackgrasshopperSOTS” or “drrichardzackgrasshopperVO”. Right-click to download to local machine. NOT for viewing in browser!
Richard Zack, WSU Entomology, 509-335-3394,;
Darin Watkins, WSU News Service, 509-335-4456,;
Matt Haugen, WSU News Service, 509- 335-0487,

Richard Zack | Newswise Science News
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