By now, it's become quite evident that the western half of the U.S. is facing one of the worst megadroughts in decades. We've spoken about fallow land and drying up reservoirs, but the question remains what happens next?
Well, it's not great, and it's straight out of the playbook from the 1930s Great Depression when the same parts of the U.S. were transformed into a desert, triggering a grasshopper plague.
A.P. News said federal agriculture officials are set to launch one of the largest grasshopper-killing campaigns in three decades amid an outbreak. The insects belong to the suborder Caelifera family and are probably the most ancient living group of chewing herbivorous insects. These creatures survive and multiply rapidly in drought or very dry conditions and will decimate crops.
Before we dive further into the grasshopper plague, the latest data from the U.S. Drought Monitor shows much of the western half of the U.S. is in some form of drought. Some places are more severe than others - but many of these lands produce an immense amount of farm goods.
So back to insect plague where A.P. spoke with a resident Frank Wiederrick of central Montana's Phillips County, who said grasshoppers are springing up on his ranch.
"They're everywhere," Wiederrick said. "Drought and grasshoppers go together and they are cleaning us out."
If extreme drought conditions continue in parts of the U.S., harvests this year could be severely impacted.
The United States Department of Agriculture has published a map of the grasshoppers spreading across arid regions of the western half of the U.S.
Agriculture officials had seen this year's infestation coming after a 2020 survey found dense concentrations of adult grasshoppers across about 55,000 square miles (141 ,000 square kilometers) in the West. A 2021 grasshopper "hazard map" shows densities of at least 15 insects per square yard (meter) in large areas of Montana, Wyoming, and Oregon and portions of Idaho, Arizona, Colorado, and Nebraska. -A.P.
"Left unaddressed, federal officials said the agricultural damage from grasshoppers could become so severe it could drive up beef and crop prices," A.P. warned.