MISSOULA – A grasshopper infestation is destroying crops and slickening some roads in western Montana with at least a month to go before the insects start dying off.
“We have another four to six weeks of grasshopper hell” before frost kills them off, said Helena Atthowe, a horticulturist with the Missoula County Extension Office.
Mike Chenoweth, coordinator of Sanders County Weed Control, said that in some parts of the county, roads are slick with grasshoppers.
“There’s a lot of places I’ve seen where you can’t tell whether it’s ground or grasshoppers,” he said.
Officials urged landowners to spray for grasshoppers earlier this year, but the point at which insecticides are effective has passed.
The weather this spring helped the grasshopper population grow. A dry spring means more grasshoppers hatching and surviving, because they are susceptible to diseases when it’s wet outside, Atthowe said.
In Lake County, grasshoppers are eating hay, grass and cereal grain crops. Extension agent Jack Stivers says he knows of some farmers who will only have about a third of their hay crop as a result.
Atthowe said the infestation is making the birds happy. She says she’s seen baby robins that can’t fly because they’ve gorged themselves on the insects.
“The robins have been ridiculously successful,” she said.
Ravalli County extension agent Bobbie Roos said people who own chickens, turkeys or geese can send them out for a free feed.
Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.
Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.