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Grappling with Grasshoppers

A dry hot summer, like the one Lethbridge has been experiencing, is a perfect breeding ground for grasshoppers. With low producing agriculture land around the city, grasshoppers are migrating out of the fields and into neighbourhoods feeding on lawns and plants.

We understand this has been extremely frustrating and upsetting for some of our residents, particularly those who back on to farmer's fields.  We also know a lot of effort goes into landscaping and it has been disheartening to see that damaged by insects.

News reports are showing Lethbridge is not alone in facing this challenge with major grasshopper infestations occurring in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Montana and jurisdictions further east.

Grasshoppers are generally more populated when areas receive less than 750mm of precipitation annually. That makes current conditions across Western Canada and the Western United States ideal for grasshoppers.

How are grasshoppers controlled?

There are a number of natural and man-made controls for grasshoppers including:

  • Cold, rainy weather
  • Natural predators – birds and other insects that feed on grasshopper eggs
  • Planting guard strips of forage that is unfavorable to grasshoppers
  • Tilling
  • Agricultural pesticide – there are pros and cons to the applications of pesticide and a financial impact for farmers who must weigh the risk of the cost of application versus the cost of crop damage. These pesticide products are not authorized for use in horticultural (City parks, or private property) settings as they could be harmful to people and pets.

Alberta Agriculture has extensive information on grasshopper populations, details on impact and control methods at https://www.alberta.ca/grasshopper-management.aspx.

What is the City doing?

The City of Lethbridge has never had to have a grasshopper management program as grasshoppers are typically not a concern for our community. Stopping an infestation, such as the one we are now experiencing, requires a proactive response and one that must be developed and coordinated with a variety of stakeholders. Given the projection that we are likely to experience similar issues next year, the City is doing the following:

  • Reaching out to both federal and provincial pest control agencies for assistance in identifying specific actions the City might take to mitigate the impact of grasshopper infestations.
  • Working with neighbouring jurisdictions to ensure we take a coordinated approach when it comes to potential mitigation efforts.
  • Working with land owners who own large parcels of undeveloped land to determine if mitigation measures might be appropriate.
  • Looking at City land to determine if there are actions we can take – tilling or trap stripping – that might mitigate the future impact of grasshoppers.
  • Reaching out to other municipalities dealing with the same challenge to ensure we are exchanging information and that we are aware of all potential mitigation measures.
  • Responding to individual citizen inquiries and sharing information with the public as we continue to work through this issue.