Western Grasshopper Infestation Sparks All-Out War

From this story in the New York Times:

_The duel began just after sunrise on Wednesday, at 150 miles per hour, 50 feet above the ground. Below: billions of voracious, recently hatched migratory grasshoppers, Melanoplus sanguinipes, shock troops of the worst insect infestation here in at least 25 years. Able to fly hundreds of miles, the inchlong insects devastated the land in the 1930s during the Dust Bowl. Above: Tony Martinez of Great Bend, Kan., agricultural aviator, armed with a thermos of strong coffee and a 400-gallon tank of insecticide, the advance guard of perhaps the largest armada of crop dusters ever assembled on the high plains. "Spray on," Mr. Martinez said over his radio, releasing the hand lever on his plane's insecticide reservoir. Stacy Timmons, of Lubbock, Tex., flying not far from Mr. Martinez's wingtip, chimed in: "I think I saw a grasshopper back there, but he's already starting to be fixed."

Bug wars have long punctuated life in the nation's grassy midsection, but this year is an exclamation point. At least $25 million in hay, wheat and alfalfa alone in this corner of Wyoming is up for grabs, state officials say, to be eaten by insects, or saved. Huge areas of Montana and South Dakota are also at risk, especially from sanguinipes, the migrator, one of the most feared of 100 grasshopper species on the plains because of its startling mobility. In Wyoming alone, about 7,800 square miles -- an area the size of New Jersey -- is infested and scheduled for aerial treatment.

Bad news for farmers and ranchers, but might one potential upside for hunters be increased gamebird numbers this fall? A successful bird hatch depends on any number of factors coming together at just the right time. Insect numbers are just one, but they are a crucial component to the survival of the chicks and poults of ground-nesting gamebirds like quail, pheasant, sage grouse, Huns, sharptails and prairie chickens. If the weather cooperates and nesting cover isn't eaten by hordes of grasshoppers, trout anglers might not be the only ones to benefit this year._