CANTON, S.D. (KELO) — Large populations of grasshoppers have been found in southeastern South Dakota, and they’re making their impact felt in certain places, including the garden of KELOLAND meteorologist Brian Karstens.

According to Amanda Bachmann, pesticide education and urban etymology field specialist with SDSU Extension, South Dakota has a large variety of species of grasshoppers, many of which are currently hitting adulthood in parts of South Dakota.

“It seems like you guys are in the corner of the state that is still kind of dry,” said Bachmann, speaking to us from Pierre. “With crops being maybe one of the things that’s still green — that’s also why you’re seeing the grasshoppers doing the crop damage.”

Simply put, a lot of the vegetation in this part of the state isn’t doing too hot, leaving crops, be they fields or gardens, as the main source of food for the grasshoppers.

While it may feel like the insects came on suddenly, Bachmann says they’ve been here the whole time. “These are locally grown grasshoppers,” she said. “We have quite the diversity of species — they over-winter as eggs in the soil, then hatch out in the spring and their lifecycle continues from there.”

Since the grasshoppers are here to stay (and it’s important that they do — we’ll get to that in a bit), Bachmann says it is important to scout your crops early in the season.

“There are products called insect growth regulators that you can utilize earlier in the season to prevent the grasshoppers from making it to adulthood,” Bachmann said.

If you miss the boat on the growth regulators, it’s still not too late. Bachmann notes that there are insecticides that can be applied to kill adult grasshoppers, but they can get expensive.

A decision on what measures you should take to mitigate insect damage to crops will depend on a number of variables, and the extension’s South Dakota Pet Management Guides can be a big help.

It might seem easier for everyone if these insects — these pests that eat our crops and swarm our gardens — just weren’t here. But in a state that prides itself on its pheasant hunting, that would be a very bad thing indeed.

“Grasshoppers are gonna be a great food source for a lot of the birds out there, especially if you’re somebody out there that is interested in pheasants or grouse,” Bachmann explained. “Grasshoppers are a really important part of the food chain. That’s what they feed to their little baby pheasants.”

Asked if there was anything especially interesting she thought the public might want to know about grasshoppers, Bachmann shared this: “They have parasites of their own,” she said. “If you’ve ever caught a bunch of grasshoppers and noticed a bunch of little red dots on them; those are actually mites that are feeding on the grasshopper.”