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Oklahoma drought may drive grasshoppers into cities

Even though Oklahoma grasshopper population is down this year, an expert says lack of food and water in rural areas will drive them into town.
BY MATT PATTERSON Published: August 15, 2011

“I think we'll continue to see them moving into these more populated areas where people are watering their yards,” Royer said. “They're mostly going to be a problem for people who keep gardens. They're going to continue to search for food and water, and they'll continue to look for areas to lay their eggs.”

Oklahoma has more than 130 species of grasshoppers. Most are capable of eating 50 percent of their body weight each day. The differential grasshopper and the two-striped species are the most likely to cause problems.

Grasshoppers like broad-leaved plants and grass. A general rule of thumb is anything that's green is at risk to become breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“It's a problem if they're in your yard,” OSU extension educator Ray Ridlen said. “They can be pretty devastating.”

How to fight them

Ridlen said it's usually impossible to spray every plant in your yard, but recommends creating a 10 to 15 foot perimeter around your property using an insecticide. Ridlen recommends Sevin as an effective insecticide, though a number of products will work.

Generally insecticides are more effective on smaller grasshoppers. Insecticides can also break down in heat and sunlight, meaning they have to be applied about every 24 hours or so in some cases.

If grasshoppers do infest your garden or flower bed, finding the locations of their hatching sites can be helpful. Some plants can be protected by floating row covers that allow in air and sunlight but not grasshoppers. The best advice is to remain aggressive.

“Once they've found that little oasis in the desert, they won't want to leave,” Ridlen said.