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the problem is the solution?

 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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So what problem will the ravening horde of grasshoppers infesting our entire 5 acres and surrounding land solve?

There's way too many to use as fish bait, and anyway you can't catch salmon with them.
 
Kirk Hutchison
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Location: Los Angeles, CA
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I hear that turkeys like grasshoppers. I bet chickens do as well.
 
John Polk
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About the only problem they solve, is at least now you don't have to harvest your crops.
 
Burra Maluca
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Too many grasshoppers are a sign that your system is still very much out of balance, with not enough natural predators to keep them under control.  You can either wait for the natural predators to catch up, or add your own. I use guinea fowl. 

Too many grasshoppers become eggs, meat, and intruder alarm. 

The first year on our property the grasshoppers were horrific and destroyed everything.  A couple of years with guinea fowl and they are simply not a problem.  In fact, I think next year we may 'downgrade' to ant-eating bantams as there weren't really enough grasshoppers to justify the extra work of the guinea fowl, who seem to be on a mission to turn feral.  Bantams aren't so efficient at grasshopper catching, but once the situation is under control I think they might be enough to maintain a nice balance.  They're gentler on the ears, too... 
 
Ray South
Posts: 60
Location: Northern Tablelands, NSW, Australia
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When events coincide grasshopper plagues can and do occur. They occur on the African plains, they occur on the western plains in the state I live in. The occurrences here are not regular but do seem to follow el niño/la niña cycles. They are not apparently related to the state of the local ecology. Like any plague, they overwhelm things locally, then move on, or die out if there's no more food to be had - just like yeast in a barrel of grape juice.
If guinea fowl love them, why not get a flock of young ones and fatten them for market? Mind you, they're a pain in the butt to look after. Independent would be the kindest adjective I could apply to them. Perhaps turkeys would be better.
 
paul wheaton
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You need a chicken paddock system out there.

And more trees.  With more trees comes more birds.  And birds are more likely to eat grasshoppers if there are trees and shrubs nearby.

 
John Polk
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For those not familiar with grasshopper/locust plagues in the western US, let me add this little tid-bit:

For chickens (or guineas) to control them, you would need approximately 43,560 of them per acre!  As you drive down the highway, you are probably killing over 10,000 of them with each mile you are driving.

The State bird of Utah is the seagull.  During a plague, the seagulls followed them from the Pacific, and saved the Mormon's crops.  There are statues of seagulls in Salt Lake city...a local hero!  It has nothing to do with an imbalance.

 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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"About the only problem they solve, is at least now you don't have to harvest your crops."

Hah!

About birds - I really can't take guinea hens - for me, their ceaseless racket is fully as annoying as fingernails on a blackboard. I've lived with them, and never could acclimate. If someone would breed a voiceless guinea,  I'd be first in line. The muscovies we have don't hunt the hoppers as mercilessly as chickens would, and I won't have chickens until we get some proper housing - maybe next year.

What I don't understand is why I don't see more turkey and quail on our land. They are generally abundant lower in the canyon. Maybe it's just that much colder up here on the plateau? Or maybe there is insufficient water? We do have plenty of brush piles, but maybe more dense thickets would also help. No shortage of grasses and acorns.

Sigh.
 
Albert Johnston
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This year has been the worst year for grasshoppers that many people can remember here in West Central Florida. I have a few pet ducks in my backyard. I haven't seen a grasshopper in years, and as far as I can tell my adjacent neighbors don't have a problem with grasshoppers either.
 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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Your neighbors are the key. No matter how many ducks/chickens/guineas I was willing to keep myself, I am surrounded by hundreds of acres of range and forestland. There aren't many people living up here, and few of them grow plants, edible or otherwise. There are some advantages to being isolated from ag land, but there are disadvantages as well, and I am adding grasshoppers to that list!

BTW, I still have way too many, but something is starting to diminish their numbers. If I can figure out who/what, I will certainly do what I can to encourage s/he, them or it.
 
Paul Cereghino
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From a design perspective, I would tend to put periodic grasshopper years in more of a 'landscape analysis' or maybe 'sector analysis' category... like living in a floodplain, or dryland forest fire country.  It is not a 'design element' per se, but a consequence of the ecosystem in which you live.

I suspect you may be able to predict outbreaks based on annual climate variation... maybe find some nerdy academic types who can help you with that, and plan for some "Turkey years".

It might be useful to observe the impact in detail:
Are the places that get more or less damage - can you predict?
Are the plants/yields that escape impact or are someway resilient?

I'd reinforce the natural phenomena sentiments --  While one could define that "imbalance" is the source of all suffering, not all imbalances are unnatural or avoidable, and suffering is still suffering.
 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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"Are the places that get more or less damage - can you predict?
Are the plants/yields that escape impact or are someway resilient?"

Lush soft green leaves attract them. They have killed the lettuce, kale and bush beans. Summer squash has just a few trial bites, the winter squash has been more impacted, but is OK. Peppers and radishes have some experimental nibbles, tomatoes have not been bothered. Onions/chives have not been bothered, neither have sage, oregano, marigolds, coreopsis, dahlias, echinacea, lavender, monarda, hyssop, yarrow. Thyme, basil, feverfew, and calendula are tattered, but hanging on. So leaves armored with hairs/prickles are less attractive than ones that aren't so protected, and strongly scented plants are more (but not completely) resistant. I suspect that if the infestation does not die back sufficiently in the next couple weeks, they will go for the less-attractive plants as the pickings get scarcer. The surrounding dry range, mostly dried grasses, is full of grasshoppers as well, I am not sure what the hoppers are eating there. The mullein, woolly lupine, wild yarrow and epilobium are about the only green plants out there, and they are not being chewed.

Long-range plans are to irrigate part of the rangeland and develop pasture for poultry, but we don't have sufficient water for that yet. I am not sure whether that will help or not.

Now that you mention it, I think there are folks who do predict hopper outbreaks - extension? range managers? Thanks for jogging my memory on this, will track it down. If I built netting cages for my beds, and had them on hand for hopper plagues...

But that's a lot of bird food on the wing, I don't understand why there aren't ground birds on hand to take advantage.
 
Paul Cereghino
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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I suspect its that the lifecycle of ground birds runs at a different rate than that of grasshoppers.  Populations of grasshopper predators run at a lag behind the grasshoppers, but I suspect there is a third major component in the dynamic.  So at the grossest scale it is a 3 way dynamic- climate (episodic), grasshopper (fast), grasshopper predator (slower), with the climate factor messing with the potential for equilibrium (the 'balance' thing I think was overrated in Victorian era ecology, and may have come in part with the idea that nature was designed by a divine being that like everything tidy).  Historically there may have been fire mixed into the dynamic as well.  I understand that shrubland fire return intervals are somewhere on the order of 5-20 years.

Fun article - if insects grew to be the size of mammals, we'd eat them more...
http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2011/08/15/110815fa_fact_goodyear
 
Dale Hodgins
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    In the 70s a plague of locusts started in Morocco and swept across North Africa and into Asia and finally petered out in Bangladesh. So I doubt that any individual farmer could be faulted for his misfortune.
 
Dave Miller
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jacque g wrote:
What I don't understand is why I don't see more turkey and quail on our land. They are generally abundant lower in the canyon. Maybe it's just that much colder up here on the plateau? Or maybe there is insufficient water? We do have plenty of brush piles, but maybe more dense thickets would also help. No shortage of grasses and acorns.

Are you sure about the acorns?  Here at the west end of the gorge, the wet spring last year caused there to be NO acorns on the native oak trees (Quercus garryana).  So all the birds that eat acorns (including turkeys) went elsewhere.  I haven't checked our local trees this year but I wouldn't be surprised if they are bad again due to a pretty wet spring (but not as wet as last year).

Also the oaks release acorns in cycles, if yours are in the low part of the cycle then the birds will be elsewhere.  But I'm not sure if the cycle is per tree or per region or what.
 
duane hennon
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hi jacque

so you're a grasshopper rancher this year.
somewhere Mollison had a concept design ( a rotary cage design) to harvest them. I can't find the reference now. Also in an old Organic Gardening mag was an article on a bug vacuum. i can't it either!
bag them up and sell them to turkey farms
 
                        
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Location: San Diego
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jacque g wrote:
"About the only problem they solve, is at least now you don't have to harvest your crops."

Hah!

About birds - I really can't take guinea hens - for me, their ceaseless racket is fully as annoying as fingernails on a blackboard. I've lived with them, and never could acclimate. If someone would breed a voiceless guinea,  I'd be first in line. The muscovies we have don't hunt the hoppers as mercilessly as chickens would, and I won't have chickens until we get some proper housing - maybe next year.

What I don't understand is why I don't see more turkey and quail on our land. They are generally abundant lower in the canyon. Maybe it's just that much colder up here on the plateau? Or maybe there is insufficient water? We do have plenty of brush piles, but maybe more dense thickets would also help. No shortage of grasses and acorns.

Sigh.

Grasshoppers normally thrive best in drought years. They like it hot and dry. Wild turkeys will eat some of them but tame turkeys will eat little else when hoppers are available and are really good at chasing them down.

 
Loren Luyendyk
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Location: Santa Barbara. Ca
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Grasshoppers are pretty nutritious.  Maybe you should look at another kind of harvest?  If the problem is that the grasshoppers are eating your food, maybe eat them.  That is a solution.  They actually taste really good, especially with salt and chile.

In Mexico they call them Chapulines: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chapulines

In Africa they prepare them thus:
"Grasshoppers and locusts are prepared in a similar manner: Remove wings and legs from the insects. Rinse in cold water. Add insects to boiling water and cook for twenty minutes or until tender. Strain water away. Stir butter, ghee, or oil into pan and fry the insects for a several more minutes. Salt to taste. Serve with Baton de Manioc, Fufu, Ugali, or boiled Plantains, or Rice."
 
                
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33 ways to eat grasshoppers: http://www.amazon.com/Eat-bug-Cookbook-grasshoppers-centipedes/dp/0898159776

lol, seems to me that kind of thing is just a fact of life, so you need shade houses or plan to harvest and sell the hoppers then buy what you need.  Seems to me if you can manage a large enough fenced turkey pen around your gardens then you might be able to raise a very nice crop of turkey to sell and eat.
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