Residents around Moose Jaw may have noticed an abundance of grasshoppers this summer swarming around nibbling on your plants, crops, and even trees.
There is a reason behind the sudden influx of the six-legged creatures. Dr. James Tansey, the province's entomologist, says the increase has to do with last year's weather conditions creating what he calls a “perfect storm” this year.
“Their populations are driven in large part by weather conditions. We had dry and warm conditions all of last year, so right from the spring, it meant the eggs that were laid in the soil. Once it starts to warm up in the spring, they complete their development in those eggs.”
A warm spring led to the grasshoppers beginning to hatch and appear in the middle of May to begin their development. An early spring moisture coupled with warm temperatures throughout the summer allowed the grasshoppers to develop even faster into adulthood last year.
“We did have a lot of those hotspots, so lots of opportunities for a boy to meet a girl and contribute to the next generation. Most importantly we had a really warm protracted late summer and early fall. This meant that the girls had a lot of opportunities to get those eggs into the ground. That was important to contribute to this year’s numbers.”
Moving into this year Tansey notes that emergence was halted due to a cooler spring, but now with the weather warming up, the population has started to emerge in full force. He says that reports show the southwest and southcentral areas of the province are suffering the most with grasshopper populations.
The Prairie Pest Monitoring Network, which tracks insect development, has stated that 75 to 95 per cent of the grasshopper population in the Moose Jaw area are now in the egg stage, which will hatch next spring.
To continue their development the grasshoppers, have to eat, and depending on the species tend to feed on crops that are popular in the province such as wheat, canola, and lentils, which can be detrimental to farmers.
These are all the things that Nick Cornea grows on his farm just west of Drinkwater. He says these are the most grasshoppers he’s seen in a season ever and is starting to notice the effects they are having on his crops.
“We’re seeing some of the tillers that are green in the bottom of the wheat, they like chewing on them right now,” says Cornea. “We’re seeing some grasshopper damage in the samples for the lentils, they like to bite the flowers and end up biting the seed as well. It’s not terrible, I don’t think it will lower the quality of the grain, they’re definitely there.”
Cornea adds that the effects grasshoppers have when it comes to his wheat, is if they bite down on the stem it will cut off the moisture to the plant and not allow it to mature. Also, if it’s late in the season, grasshoppers could potentially take bushels away from farmers, by biting down on the stem allowing the plant to fall over and creating a huge mess to clean up.
Farmers like Cornea and others in that area have or are continuing to spray their fields to try and fend off grasshoppers from doing any more damage.
Cornea isn’t the only resident that is dealing with the effects of grasshoppers. Shirley Tillie owns an acreage just south of Caron and says she is feeling the effects of the grasshoppers as well in her garden
“They’ve cleaned my garden out, at least 70 per cent,” says Tillie.
Tillie adds that the grasshoppers began with her onions and then moved on to other things.
“They’ve taken most of the tops off the carrots, they’ve cleaned the tops off the potatoes, the onions are non-existent, and the peas are pretty much non-existent,” adds Tillie.
In Saskatchewan, there are four predominant species of grasshoppers that are economically important. Those species are the Clearwing, Two-Striped, Packard’s, and a Species Concept (includes four species that are closely related).
Tansey says that the Two-Striped grasshopper is the most predominant species in Saskatchewan. The females can grow up to an inch and a half long and stays in a lusher habitat but will feed off the heads of cereal crops such as wheat, corn, barley, and rye.