RIDGE MANOR –
A recent infestation of American grasshoppers is creating a problem for local farmers.
Stacey Strickland, county extension director and agriculture agent, said he is trying to help farmers maintain their crops with the recent grasshopper infestation that has mostly taken place off Power Line Road near State Road 50 heading east.
Strickland said the grasshoppers have swarmed in the thousands and are eating hay and other crops.
He said American grasshoppers are drawn to dry weather but since this summer has not been a very dry one, he is unsure why the grasshoppers have grouped to that certain area.
According to the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, American grasshoppers are found throughout North America, mostly in the Southern states, and can be found as far south as Mexico and the Bahamas.
Adult grasshoppers settle in trees and shrubs but prefer ground cover when laying eggs in nearby crops and can damage more than just hay.
Outbreaks can occur in corn, tobacco, vegetable fields and many other fields near grasshopper roosting sites. Even baby grasshoppers, or nymphs, can walk to nearby fields and deposit eggs.
In three to four weeks, nymphs make their way to the surface and reach adulthood after five or six stages, reaching between 39 to 42 millimeters for the males and 48 to 55 millimeters for the females.
When the final stage is complete, nymphs change from a green color to reddish brown with a yellow stripe down the torso.
American grasshoppers exist throughout the year due to two hatching periods, one from April to May and another from August to September.
There are several ways to manage American grasshoppers. Birds and blister beetle larvae are known to consume grasshopper eggs. Cultivation and weed management help destroy grasshopper eggs and kill small nymphs. Also, there are certain insecticides that kill grasshoppers, but it is easier when they are young.
Strickland plans to survey the land around Power Line Road next week to get an idea of just how many American grasshoppers there actually are and how badly they will affect the crops. Strickland said he is bringing in John Capinera, head of the entomology department at the University of Florida, for extra help.
Strickland said he plans to measure the grasshopper population using two methods. One is to walk the area and try to count the number of grasshoppers that leap or fly, which he said is no easy task.
Another method is to sweep the area with a net to determine the high and low density areas.
Reporter Hayley Mathis can be reached at 352-544-5225 or firstname.lastname@example.org