LEWISTON – State agriculture officials have distributed more than 28,000 pounds of grasshopper bait in hopes of stemming an infestation of the crop-hungry bugs.
The amount of bait – all distributed in Latah County – is a dramatic increase from the nearly 4,000 pounds given out in 2007.
“That’s how it can suddenly change in a given year,” said Dick Lawson, of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture, told the Lewiston Tribune. “The bait’s purpose is to protect crop production. The biggest use so far has been for regrowth on hay fields. After the first cutting, farmers look around and grasshoppers are eating their regrowth.”
The bait is a dry pellet that is not toxic for bees, but effective on grasshoppers.
Farmers as far north as Careywood have been reporting grasshopper infestations, the Coeur d’Alene Press reported.
“In 50 years I have never seen anything like this,” said Ron Rex, who finished his hay harvest just in time to protect it from the hungry insects. By Friday his property was swarming with what he first thought were locusts, he said.
Some of his neighbors’ gardens were stripped clean, he said.
“It’s unbelievable. They are swarming. It’s almost to the point you don’t want to go outside,” Rex said.
The grasshoppers weren’t expected to move that far north this year, Lawson said.
The Department of Agriculture will send a crew to the region on Monday to evaluate the infestation, he said.
Steve VanVleet, an agent with Whitman County cooperative extension in Washington, said similar grasshopper outbreaks are reported around Winona, Endicott, Hooper and Palouse, Wash. Growers have been spraying to kill the insects, he said.
“So there are definitely pockets all throughout the county,” VanVleet said. “The grasshoppers do seem to be pretty bad this year.”
Washington State University extension agent and entomologist Dave Bragg said the cooler spring had grasshoppers emerging later than normal from their eggs.
“They probably haven’t completed their reproductive life cycle,” he said. “We can have them clear until it freezes hard.”
A little farther south in Nez Perce County, extension agent Larry Smith said the grasshoppers have been easier on the region than normal. The county has transferred some of its stored bait to Latah County to help with demand there.
“The thing that’s changed the past couple of years is that we’ve noticed the number of complaints went down significantly. It might pick up in August, but generally if we’re going to have an outbreak we’ll know by now.”
Smith said grasshoppers usually are problems in uncultivated range and pasture lands and migrate into greener areas, such as towns and isolated gardens.