As drought continues, add outbreaks from grasshoppers
Texas hosts about 150 grasshopper species, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service entomologists. Both of these are of the ‘Boopedon gracile’ species, a grass feeder. Bother were found in the same Nacogdoches County pasture. The one on the left is a male, and the one on the right is a last instar nymph female.
COLLEGE STATION -- While drought is bad for practically everything else that grows, it does often promote a good crop of grasshoppers, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service experts.
“Grasshopper populations are normally maintained at lower levels by natural controls, including diseases,” said Dr. Chris Sansone, AgriLife Extension entomologist in San Angelo. “The main disease is a fungus, and most fungi do better during cool wet conditions. Since we didn’t have cool, wet conditions in the spring, the fungus isn’t thriving, and since the fungus isn’t thriving, we’re having higher populations of grasshoppers.”
There are also some effects with bare ground warming up faster in the spring that favors grasshopper outbreaks, he said.
Despite the drought, grasshopper reports from AgriLife Extension agents were sketchy across the state, but seemed to be more common in East Texas and South Texas around San Antonio.
The hit-and-miss outbreaks are most likely due to there being other factors involved, Sansone said. “This year has been interesting because the drought has been so severe,” he said. “If people haven’t had any showers at all -- even those late afternoon showers of a tenth or two-tenths of an inch -- we’re not seeing any grasshopper outbreaks.”
Sansone said this is probably because there’s not enough food in pastures and rangeland to sustain even a grasshopper population.
“These areas that have been catching afternoon showers are seeing the worse outbreaks.”
More information on grasshoppers can be found at in the AgriLife Extension publication “Grasshoppers and Their Control,” available athttp://insects.tamu.edu/extension/publications/epubs/e-209.cfm.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported the region remained completely dry. Record-high temperatures of 101 to 104 degrees and above, along with high winds, aggravated the drought. Most of the region remained in extremely high wildfire-alert status. Most dryland crops failed. Irrigated corn and sorghum were drying down. Sunflowers growers were harvesting. Peanuts, cotton, pecans, grapes and landscape nursery crops continued to make good progress under heavy irrigation -- but at high pumping costs. The peach harvest began. The cabbage, onion, potato, watermelon, cantaloupe, green bean, and sweet corn harvests were ongoing. Farmers were harvesting tomatoes, onions, squash and other spring vegetables for sale at roadside markets. Pasture and rangeland grasses and forbs stopped growing because of the hot, dry weather. Forage availability was below average.
Compiled from Texas A&M University and Texas AgriLife Extension Service reports.