Drought still affecting this year’s grasshopper, honeybee populations
Texas hosts about 150 grasshopper species, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service entomologists. This one is a last instar nymph female of the “Boopedon gracile” species, a grass feeder.
By Robert Burns
COLLEGE STATION -- Last year’s drought is the most likely reason producers are seeing more grasshoppers and fewer honeybees this year, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.
High grasshopper populations are tied to hot, dry weather for a number of reasons, said Dr. Chris Sansone, associate department head and AgriLife Extension program leader for entomology in San Angelo.
“The drought damaged range and pasture grasses thus creating areas with no to little grass,” Sansone explained. “Hatching grasshoppers use these areas to warm up in the spring. The open areas also slow the insect fungus that normally controls grasshoppers. The fungus is one of the main threats to small grasshoppers, and the open areas dry out quicker, which limits the fungus, with the result of a larger proportion of eggs surviving.”
But grasshoppers, being cold-blooded, also thrive with warmer temperatures, he said. Hot weather means their metabolisms run faster, so they eat more and grow faster.
On top these factors, the grasshopper hatch came early this year because of the relatively warm spring, Sansone said.
The best way to control grasshoppers is to spray when the hatches first start, when control is very inexpensive.
And it was easier to get behind this year as the hatch came a couple of weeks early in many areas due to unseasonably warm weather, Sansone added.
“Normally, we said we need to treat in mid-April, but this year, we needed to treat in mid-March to the first of April,” he said.
But grasshopper issues, though horrendous in some areas, still vary throughout the state.
“The state is big enough, and the conditions are different enough that infestations are not very consistent,” Sansone said. “So we have traditional hot spots such as Central Texas and around the Stephenville area. But in South Texas, we very rarely hear about grasshopper outbreaks, and I haven’t heard of any in the Weslaco or the Corpus Christi regions right now.”
There have also been regional reports of poor honeybee honey production and low brood numbers despite many areas having good flower blooms. Sansone said this too is most likely a result of the drought.
“There was a large decline in hive strength because of that drought, in my opinion,” Sansone said. “I don’t think the numbers were high coming into 2012, and I think that is what the beekeepers are experiencing. We had good flower production so you would have thought that nectar production would have been good, but the bee numbers just weren’t there.”
When we see our highest bee numbers is when there is average or above-average moisture, he said.
AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:
AgriLife Extension district reporters for the Southwest District, including Wilson, Gonzales, Guadalupe, and Bexar counties, reported hot, dry conditions continued across the district, evaporating soil moisture and causing ground to crack. Farmers finished their first cutting of hay, but were unsure whether they will get another cutting due to lack of rain. Milo was turning color. Dryland corn was extremely moisture-stressed.
Robert Burns has nearly 30 years’ experience writing about agriculture and agricultural-related research. He writes about Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service activities at the Overton Center and centers in Stephenville and Temple.