Grasshoppers continue to devour Haakon Co.

Grasshoppers have taken over Haakon County this summer, and it looks as though they are not going to be thinning out any time soon.

The only sure way the grasshopper species will die for the year is with a hard freeze. While the warm weather remains, grasshoppers will continue to be a nuisance throughout western South Dakota. The first freeze and frost of the year will bring an end to the pesky crop eating grasshoppers, but not the entire species.

This summer, Haakon County is seeing an increasingly large number of grasshoppers. A study done in July by the United States Department of Agriculture, showed Haakon County as having nearly the largest number of grasshoppers in western South Dakota. Meade, Jackson and Stanley counties all have a very high number of grasshoppers as well, but Haakon County seems to be the immediate hot spot.

This year, many farmers opted to cut their alfalfa early to try and escape the grasshoppers, but some are dealing with the crop not growing back. South Dakota State University recommends that grasshoppers are controlled to ensure alfalfa stand survival. This is necessary for anyone who has alfalfa hay. It was recently reported that a single grasshopper eats around 13 pounds of forage in one month.

Grasshoppers have caused much havoc and damage to area farmers. They have destroyed alfalfa, corn, sunflowers and are now striping down the sweet clover that grows around the county. The hoppers are also gnawing away the bottom of hay bales and corn stalks, ruining much of the crop.

A big concern for farmers is the grasshoppers eating the silks off the corn. One farmer reported having to walk 20 rows into his corn field before finding a single cob with silk on it. This poses a huge problem, because without the silk, the corn is unable to be pollinated, and will not grow.

Along with eating away the crops, grasshoppers are lessening the quality of forage for animals this winter. It may be necessary for farmers to provide additional hay or an alternate source of forage for livestock this fall and winter.

"Make sure to have enough available forage if grasshoppers have been a problem in winter pastures," recommended Adele Harty, Haakon County Extension livestock educator. "The grasshoppers are usually more of a problem in dry weather or drought, so farmers have not had as much forage loss this summer due to the rain."

Many individuals with crops have sprayed for grasshoppers, which kills them, but is a costly option.

Grasshoppers have made it difficult for people trying to grow a garden or flowers this summer. They have eaten anything in their path and have no mercy when it comes to pretty flowers and flourishing gardens. Homeowners should also be a little worried because grasshoppers are starting to eat away at tree leaves. The USDA recommended that gardeners use Tempo around the outside of their gardens, but not in them. This will keep most of the hoppers away. Seven Dust or Malathion spray is supposed to be used directly on gardens, but make sure to read the labels for application directions. Tempo can also be used to keep grasshoppers away from most trees, excluding fruit trees that are going to be harvested.

Almost everyone in western South Dakota has noticed or been affected by the large number of grasshoppers in different ways. As for the rest of the summer and fall, grasshoppers will continue to make their way through farmer's crops and homeowner's gardens. It doesn't look as though the grasshoppers are going anywhere until winter.