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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Selective Control of Rangeland Grasshoppers with Prescribed Fire

Authors
item VERMEIRE, LANCE
item MITCHELL, ROBERT
item Fuhlendorf, Samuel - OKLAHOMA STATE UNIV
item Wester, David - TEXAS TECH UNIV

Submitted to: Journal of Range Management
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 15, 2003
Publication Date: January 4, 2004
Repository URL: http://ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/54340000/Publications/hoppercontrol04.pdf
Citation: Vermeire, L.T., Mitchell, R., Fuhlendorf, S.D., Wester, D.B. 2004. Selective control of rangeland grasshoppers with prescribed fire. Journal Of Range Management v. 57. p. 29-33.

Interpretive Summary: A few species of grasshoppers are included among the most damaging rangeland pests, but most species provide important nutrition to many wildlife species and rarely cause measurable damage. Insecticides often control non-target species as well as pest grasshoppers and may have indirect effects on wildlife populations. We used fall and spring prescribed fire to evaluate the effects of prescribed burning on grasshopper abundance and biomass and to determine if species could be selectively controlled. Fire treatments had no effects on the total abundance or biomass of grasshoppers across species. Fire effects on the 4 most common species were variable and could be explained by the biology of the insects. Melanoplus bowditchi and M. flavidus were unaffected by fire treatment. Hesperotettix viridis is sensitive to damage to its host plants and was reduced by 88% with fire in either season. Fall burns reduced Ageneotettix deorum abundance by 65% because the species' eggs are laid near the soil surface and exposed to the heat of passing fire. Fire prescriptions can be written to target species-specific vulnerabilities and control pest grasshoppers while maintaining the food base for grasshopper predators.

Technical Abstract: Grasshoppers (Orthoptera: Acrididae) are considered among the most damaging rangeland pests, but are necessary for the survival of many wildlife species. Most grasshoppers are innocuous, but control with insecticides is non-discriminatory among species. The objectives were to evaluate the effects of prescribed burning on the abundance and biomass of grasshoppers and to determine if species could be selectively controlled with prescribed fire. Twenty-four, 4-ha sites were selected in a sand sagebrush-mixed prairie near Woodward, Okla. and blocked by pasture. Plots were randomly assigned fall-, spring-, or non-burned treatments within block with 4 replications per treatment for each of 2 years. Grasshopper biomass and abundance were sampled in late July and early August by sweeping with canvas beating nets. Specimens were weighed to the nearest 0.1 mg and identified to species. Fire treatments had no effects on the total abundance or biomass of grasshoppers across species, with about 10 grasshoppers weighing 4,090 mg per 150 sweeps. Fire effects on the 4 most common species were variable and could be explained by the biology of the insects. Melanoplus bowditchi and M. flavidus were unaffected by fire treatment. Hesperotettix viridis is sensitive to damage to its host plants and was reduced about 88% by fire in either season. Fall burns reduced Ageneotettix deorum abundance by 65% because the species' eggs are laid near the soil surface and exposed to the heat of passing fire. Fire prescriptions can be written to target species-specific vulnerabilities and control pest grasshoppers while maintaining the food base for grasshopper predators.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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