Grasshopper Potential Remains High for Some Nebraska Rangeland

Grasshopper Potential Remains High for Some Nebraska Rangeland

April 11, 2008

Map showing potential grasshopper threat predicted for Nebraska for 2008.
Potential grasshopper threat predicted for Nebraska for 2008 (USDA APHIS). Densities show summer 2007 adult grasshopper populations (grasshoppers per square yard).

Large areas of Nebraska's central and southwest rangeland are at high risk for serious grasshopper infestations this year, according to a prediction may prepared by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Because of this threat, ranchers in these high risk areas should be prepared to monitor the build-up of grasshopper densities during the hatching and early development periods from mid May through June.

Even though the potential is high in these areas, the actual impact of grasshoppers will be largely determined by two factors:


  1. Immediately after grasshoppers hatch from their eggs, they have few fat reserves and are vulnerable to cool, wet weather. If they are unable to feed readily during these early stages, high mortality will result. Since grasshoppers hatch over an extended period, only some of the hatch may be affected; however, this mortality can be significant enough to reduce heavy populations below threshold levels in many areas.


  2. The other major factor that will influence this threat is the prevalence of rain. In 2007 these same areas also had a serious potential for problems, but few materialized because in many areas ample rainfall resulted in good grass growth, and there was less pressure for grass on the rangelands. Dry conditions that limit grass growth result in a greater value for the available forage and a greater need to manage grasshopper populations.

Control with RAATs

If grasshopper populations readily persist through the early hatching period and dry conditions limit grass growth, there likely will be widespread areas with serious grasshopper infestations, and control may need to be considered. The reduced agent/area treatments (RAATs) program has been widely used and ranchers have been very satisfied with the control levels they've seen.

RAATs consists of spraying a swath and leaving a swath untreated so that only half the treatment block is sprayed, reducing treatment costs. Any of the three insecticides registered for rangeland grasshopper control can be used, but Dimilin has been used almost exclusively with this program in Nebraska. The longer residual of Dimilin (21-28 days) allows time for grasshoppers to move from the untreated areas into the treated area and contact the insecticide.

The overall effectiveness of control may be reduced slightly with this method, but the cost will be reduced by 50% or more. A major cost determinant for using RAATs is the size of the treatment block – larger blocks are much more efficient for applicators to treat. If treatments are warranted, ranchers are urged to work together to treat larger areas to increase the efficiency and reduce the cost of treatments.

Gary L. Hein, Extension Entomologist
Panhandle REC, Scottsbluff

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