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Drought may favor grasshoppers

Grasshopper populations are normally maintained at lower levels by natural controls, including diseases. Hot, dry conditions usually favor grasshopper populations. This year may be too dry, even for grasshoppers.  

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, 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."

 Some effects with bare ground warming up faster in the spring also favor 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 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."

rd-burns@tamu.edu

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