Box Elder folks may be noticing what seems like a blizzard of grasshoppers, but officials say the number of pests doesn’t appear to be higher than what descended on the county last year.
“If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say it’s the same” as 2011, said state entomologist Clint Burfitt. He’s talking statewide numbers. Statistics for this year haven’t been compiled yet.
Still, some “isolated pockets” of the county are being hit with large numbers of the pesky flying critters, particularly around Collinston, said Utah State University Extension agent Lyle Holmgren.
“When they’re bad, they’re bad,” he added.
A report by the U.S. Department of Agricultural indicated that Box Elder was seeing some crop damage from grasshoppers, but Holmgren noted the county is nearly 75 percent through its grain harvest.
Instead, he said, the target for grasshoppers is backyards and hay fields.
“They move into people’s yards, lawns and gardens, and they can cause real havoc when it comes to that,” he said. “I don’t know that we have that situation right now.”
Sanpete County is the only county in the state undergoing a true grasshopper plague this year, Burfitt said.
Mormon crickets have not caused any crop damage this year in Box Elder County, he said, though traps indicate the presence of the insect in the Raft River range in the country’s northern reaches, as well as the Grouse Creek area.
“We’ve had some indications those populations are building back up in those areas, but it’s not enough to cause concern,” he said.
“We don’t worry about them until they begin affecting agriculture.”
The Extension Service offers a poisonous bait for homeowners who want to tackle their own grasshopper invasion.
The bait is a grain laced with the insecticide Sevin, which can be spread in gardens and other areas.
Sevin spray can also be used, but Holmgren cautions against it because it also kills honeybees.
If Sevin spray is used, he recommends spraying in late evenings or early mornings.
Holmgren said the life cycle of the grasshopper is reaching its apex, particularly for green grasshoppers and two-striped grasshoppers.
“At this point, they’re maybe 2 1/2 to 3 inches long. When they get to this point where they’re flying, they’re about done with their life cycle and the real damage has already been done.”
As late summer approaches, grasshoppers lay their eggs in soil, Holmgren said. Disturbing the soil, such as rototilling a garden or plowing a field, will kill the eggs.
However, this option isn’t available for rangelands and hay fields.
Box Elder County is the state’s biggest producer of grain, and last year, 45,000 acres were treated for grasshopper infestation.
That compared with 2,560 acres treated in Davis County and 1,280 acres in Weber County, according to state statistics.