SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Climate conditions affect grasshopper populations differently each season, and this year’s conditions made for extreme grasshopper numbers, according to Nick Volesky of the Utah State University Extension Integrated Pest Management team.

Volesky said that grasshoppers spend the winter as eggs in the soil, unaffected by cold air temperatures. Utah’s snowpack this year provided the grasshoppers with insulation against drying out and colder soil, allowing more eggs to survive and hatch, according to Volesky.

Volesky said that grasshoppers feed on agronomic crops, pasture rangelands, weeds, ornamental plants, and vegetables. When they feed on those plants, he said, grasshoppers tear away plant tissue and consume foliage, flowers, fruits, seed heads, and stems — especially above ground.

If grasshopper populations are high enough, this feeding can lead to economic setbacks, with farmers in some areas reporting economic loss due to grasshopper damage, Volesky said.

To reduce growing grasshopper populations, Volesky suggested monitoring for nymphs early in the season as they feed in woody areas — along fence lines and roadsides. When this vegetation dries up, Volesky said, the grasshoppers move to farms and home gardens. In this nymphal stage, they are the prime target for management as they are less mobile and more susceptible to treatment.

Additionally, Volesky suggested managing grasshoppers using insecticides such as concentrate sprays, insecticide dusts, or baits.

In small gardens, Volesky said grasshoppers can be physically barred using row covers with insect netting or lightweight spun-bond material.

According to the USU Utah Pests Extension, there are about 400 different grasshopper species in North America, and most are well-adapted to forage and grasslands in Utah.

The Pests Extension says that small ranchers or homeowners will most likely only have temporary success when acting alone to reduce grasshopper populations. According to their website, grasshoppers will continually migrate to new foliage unless treated at a local hot spot before the infestation has spread.

For this reason, the federal government, through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, assists private landowners with infestations by coordinating grasshopper management programs, according to the Pests Extension.