CHICO, Calif. - Melanoplus devastator grasshoppers have inundated Indian Valley in Plumas Valley plaguing ranchers.
There is a growing problem in Northern California that is just bugging ranchers.
Indian Valley in Plumas County has been at the center of a horde of Melanoplus devastator grasshoppers for the summer. This valley along with other valleys in the mountains are key to ranchers' success in the summer. In the summer, the valley drys out and gets really hot, so ranchers move their cattle to higher elevations where more recent rains and milder temperatures leave better grassland for cows to feed upon. But if there is a horde of grasshoppers eating all of the vegetation, that could be a problem for the dozens of ranchers in Indian Valley. One such rancher is Megan Brown.
"The grasshoppers have been a big problem for us. 30 pounds of grasshoppers can eat almost the equivalent of a 600 pound animal. Its a huge problem when you are running animals for a living. So we were actually forced to sell our replacement heifers because we just ran out of feed and we don't have water to bring them home to." - Megan Brown, Rancher
Many ranchers can't afford to bring their cattle back down to the Valley since fires in previous years have destroyed the water supplies. This only serves to worsen the issue. Plumas County Agricultural Commissioner Tim Gibson says the issue is a real problem in the Indian Valley this year but that the problem is usually very localized and changes year to year. According to Gibson, two years ago the Sierra Valley underwent something similar. Other areas can see increases in grasshoppers at times but it is the Melanoplus Devastator they should be most concerned with.
Megan says some ranchers spray pesticides to prevent the grasshoppers from destroying their grass but says she prefers to avoid using chemicals, instead she prefers to hope for colder weather to lower their numbers and rely on the birds to take care of the problem for her, or at least dampen the issue.
"The birds will actually eat so many grasshoppers that they won't want to fly. We have these sandhill cranes that have been mating in one of the fields that has the most grasshoppers and they will just scream at you instead of flying away to get you to move." - Megan Brown, Rancher
At this point, many ranchers are just hoping their cattle can eat the grass before the grasshoppers do.