Carnivorous Grasshoppers, Snakes, and Holey Laundry

September 9, 2022  – British singer/songwriter Cat Stevens said it best when he belted out, “Oh baby, it’s a wild world.” Sometimes nature can be wild, ugly, and downright cringeworthy. Such was the scene that recently played out at one of our team member’s places.

Living along a creek, Haylie Shipp is no stranger to an occasional serpent. However, good snake or bad snake, she has a tendency to eliminate them when they get too close to the house. She did what she does. The reptile made its choice. That’s when the story took a turn.

Sneaking a peak at the snake a few hours after making it unalive, she noticed something strange. Three grasshoppers were perched on top feeding at the scales. Like any good journalist/science nerd would, she grabbed the camera and started taking progressive shots. 

Two Hours Later:

Two Days Later:

Four Days Later:

The snake was gone! Only a pokey little spine remained. Perplexed by the situation and a lifetime of believing that grasshoppers only ate plants, she made a phone call to Dr. Kevin Wanner. 

An associate professor of entomology at Montana State University, he told her this was not something that would happen early season. At this point, however, it’s a completely different ballgame. “Some grasshoppers will eat other insects,” said Wanner. “They’re not strictly limited to plants only. They will supplement their diet.”

More than that, he explained that it’s not exclusively about food. These grasshoppers are thirsty. And slithering ophidians aren’t the only thing on the menu. “During these outbreaks you’ll hear stories of people hanging their clothes out to dry and the grasshoppers chewing holes in the clothes. They’re actually after the moisture,” he said.

As for a reprieve, a good hard frost will end the hopper activity this fall. To take us out of the infestation, Wanner says we need cool and wet weather. Not only are these conditions disliked by the insects, but the natural diseases building in the exorbitant population favor them.

Struggling with an infestation? Treatment may be appropriate if you have emerging winter wheat. For more information, read this Ag Alert from Montana State University.

© Western Ag Network • Haylie Shipp