GRASSHOPPER'S invade Oklahoma's driest counties

Friday, July 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ A fourth straight summer of hot, dry weather has led to an infestation of grasshoppers that have farmers concerned in Oklahoma's driest counties.

Tom Royer, Oklahoma State University Extension entomologist, said drought conditions have dried up fields in many counties, forcing the insects to compete with cattle for green grass.

Royer said grasshoppers lay their eggs in the spring and their young remain juvenile for two to three months. Grasshoppers are now in the stage of growing wings, making it harder to contain them in one area, he said.

Grasshoppers are most numerous in southern Oklahoma, south of Ardmore, Royer said.

``When they are small and can't fly, you can do things (to destroy) them that you can't do now,'' Royer said. ``Once they get their wings, they are less spotty.

``If we get to the problem and get a handle on it early in the year, there are things we can do. There are too many (grasshoppers) and (their infestation is) too spotty to deal with for one person.''

In western Caddo County, Gene Kelley said he has used repellent sprays and crop dusters to try to deter the creatures.

``It helps for a week or so, then the grasshoppers come back,'' Kelley said. ``It's too expensive to do anything on a large scale.''

Many farmers and ranchers are using chemicals such as Dimilin for range land areas to eliminate the insects. For the average homeowner, spray repellent and netting is recommended.

Kelley said he has taken a 5-gallon bucket filled with the live insects and dumped them into a large area in hopes that they will just ``go away.'' But they don't.

``We've had this problem for three or four years, but what I'm seeing this year is more of a problem,'' Royer said.

It was already shaping up as a troublesome summer crop season, especially in southwestern counties. Much of that quadrant has received less than one-fourth of its normal rainfall for June and July.

Oklahoma Mesonet numbers for the past 60 days, ending Tuesday, showed Grandfield, in southeastern Tillman County, has recorded only 1.09 inches of rain and Hollis, in Harmon County, has had only 1.11 inches. Erick, in western Beckham County, has recorded 1.54 inches and Walters, in Cotton County, has had only 1.9 inches.

Oklahoma City continued its dry run on Wednesday, as well. The National Weather Service recording station at Will Rogers World Airport had a trace July 13, 14 and 16 and .02 inch July 15. Oklahoma City's July average is 2.61 inches.

The prolonged heat wave isn't helping. Some towns have been seen triple digits on 25 days this summer.