The provincial government released a map of grasshopper populations for Saskatchewan earlier this month. Here in the southeast corner of the province, the numbers were relatively higher near the U.S. border but were nothing compared to the southwest.
According to the map, areas to the direct west and south of Weyburn saw grasshopper populations, on average, of a density of two to four per square meter. This was classed as very light but does pose an economic risk to lentil crops.
To the north and the east, the numbers were zero to two per square meter. An exception was to the northwest, where, near Yellow Grass, the grasshopper survey showed numbers around four to eight per square meter.
In the southwest, it was a very different story, with some areas showing grasshopper populations of 12-24 per square meter. There were also a few pockets where the population counts were more than 24 per square meter.
Dr. James Tansey is the provincial specialist in insect and vertebrate pest management with the provincial government. He helped conduct the mapping, something that happens every year to help create an image of the destruction left behind by grasshoppers.
“The mild conditions that we're having right now in the winter are going to contribute to their survival,” stated Tansey. “I suspect that the large populations that we had in the late summer with the long warm period had the potential for those eggs to develop. From what we saw in 2022, I think we're probably looking at a repeat of what we saw this year, barring a cool wet spring.”
The wet and cool conditions leave the grasshoppers prone to fungal infections and other diseases. However, dry conditions in the spring, combined with the hot and dry conditions of the late summer, can result in the development of grasshoppers that are a little more durable, as well as more numerous with fewer of the insects dying off in the embryonic stage.
While grasshoppers may be considered troublesome, some are worse than others, according to Tansey.
“Not all grasshoppers are pests,” Tansey explained. “We actually have 85 species of grasshopper in the province. Only about four of these are ever numerous enough to cause damage to crops.”
The two main culprits, one of which is what comes to mind for nearly everyone when they think of a grasshopper, are the two-striped grasshopper and the lesser migratory grasshopper. These insects are also capable fliers as well, with their “hops” allowing them to travel up to 100 kilometres a day in order to find food.
“For the coming spring, there is no replacement for actually getting out in your fields, so I encourage growers and agronomists to get out and evaluate the populations based on established thresholds,” urged Tansey. “Canola and soybean are relatively tolerant, so 14 to 15 per square metre. Both of those crops can take a fair bit of grasshopper full-year feeding before you know you're going to see a yield hit.”
-with files from Alex Kozroski/swiftcurrentonline.com
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