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Drought continues to cause problems, bugs damaging crops

Published: Aug. 6, 2021 at 2:18 PM CDT
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BISMARCK, N.D. (KFYR) - The latest drought monitor map shows little change across North Dakota. The entire state remains in moderate drought; 60% is in extreme drought and 13% is in exceptional drought.

The dry conditions have created all kinds of problems for farmers and ranchers, and there’s no end in sight.

Grasshoppers, weevils and spider mites are always around, but they thrive in the hot, dry weather.

Tanya Lawhead’s photos tell quite story.

“We just try not to take many pictures,” the Lodgepole, S.D. producer said.

But she knows this is worth documenting. The grasshoppers first started appearing on their ranch in early June. They’ve gotten worse every day since.

“They are starting to cause damage,” Lawhead said. “We have one field that we did manage to get a little bit of hay from, and the bales are starting to fall apart because they’re chewing off the strings now on them.”

NDSU extension agents say they’re not surprised; grasshoppers are known to feast on anything and everything.

“They can eat pretty much any crop and then the plant material on the crop,” NDSU research specialist Patrick Beauzay explained.

Now, it’s not just grasshoppers causing problems.

“When the weather is hot and dry, a lot of these insect populations really go crazy,” NDSU extension cropping systems specialist Ryan Buetow noted.

Producers across the state are reporting blister beetles, red sunflower seed weevil and spider mites.

“The spotted spider mite is a very general plant feeder and they love it hot and dry,” Beauzay said.

The problem with spider mites – they’re not actually an insect, and often the treatments used to control grasshoppers don’t work on spider mites; in fact, it can cause outbreaks.

“If you do have to spray your crops for grasshoppers, be sure to scout for spider mites first,” Beauzay said. “And be careful of the chemistries that you’re using, because if you don’t you could cause a spider mite flare up in your field.”

Meantime, for producers like Lawhead, the damage has already been done.

“It’s kind of like a scene from a horror movie sometimes,” she said.

All she can do is cross her fingers and hope that the worst of it is over.

“Hopefully it doesn’t get any worse,” Lawhead said.

If you’ve got questions about insects, NDSU’s extension website at ag.ndsu.edu. You’ll find lots of resources for producers as well as for home gardeners.

You can also call your county agent.

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