Grasshopper infestation ravages drought-stricken West

The western United States, already stricken by a severe drought, now has plague of grasshoppers to contend with

Agriculture officials have launched the largest grasshopper-killing campaign since the 1980s as the insects strip an already ravaged land. The swarms are so dense they cover roads and pelt bicyclists. 

The population normally remains in check, but the prolonged drought has created ideal conditions for the insects to thrive. Most grasshoppers normally die off before reaching adulthood due to pathogens, severe winters and starvation. Dry winters, however, have helped the bugs survive and multiply, according to the Guardian

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“They’re everywhere,” Frank Wierderrick, a Montana native, told the Los Angeles Times. “Drought and grasshoppers go together, and they are cleaning us out.” 

The shift in weather patterns means that such outbreaks could increasingly become the status quo. 

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The aggressive pest-control has alarmed environmentalists who say that the efforts will end up killing more than just grasshoppers, including some endangered or struggling species. 

“We’re talking about natural areas being sprayed,” said Sharon Selvaggio, a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist. “This is not cropland.”

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Oregon and Montana have seen the worst of the infestation, with 13 other states facing similar damage. Agricultural losses due to grasshoppers could be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Helmuth Rogg, an entomologist and agricultural scientist with Oregon’s agriculture department. 

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“They eat and eat from the day they get born until the day they die,” Rogg said. “That’s all they do.” 

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