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Huge grasshopper outbreak projected in Northwest

PULLMAN — The Pacific Northwest must prepare for the worst grasshopper outbreak in 30 years, according to scientists for Washington State University and the USDA.

Researchers found a big increase in the number of grasshopper eggs last fall and said a relatively mild spring has set the stage for a major grasshopper infestation.

Last summer, grasshoppers wiped out 7,000 acres of grassland in the high desert of southeastern Oregon.

The areas considered at most risk in Washington are the high desert regions near Othello, Yakima and the Tri-Cities. The infestation was expected to hit its peak in late July and early August. Federal officials are looking into pesticide options.

“In some areas there will indeed be masses,” said Richard Zack, an entomologist at WSU. “Not biblical proportions, but big masses of grasshoppers moving through areas.”

Grasshoppers can travel from 30 to 50 miles a day looking for food.

Scientists are also warning of a possible outbreak of what is commonly known as the “Mormon Cricket,” an insect that doesn’t fly, but travels in tight packs and devours everything in its path.

“So this would be like biblical, where when they come through an area, they just start eating everything,” Zack said. “There are massive numbers of them, and then when they exit that area, pretty much anything green is gone.”

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