KAMLOOPS - A district board member hopes to speak with the provincial Minister of Agriculture about "a great number of complaints" about the growing grasshopper population eating away the grasslands near Kamloops and causing concerns for ranchers.
Ken Gillis, the director for the Grasslands area of the Thompson Nicola Regional District, says he plans to ask for solutions like the reinstatement of the Grasshopper Control Act to deal with what he calls a "major problem."
“I have talked to ranchers in the Pritchard area who have lost entire fields,” Gillis says. "I have gone and seen with my own two eyes a residential property where a woman had, I’m guessing, thousands of dollars worth of plants in her backyard completely destroyed."
"Once they run out of grass, they’ll eat everything."
Gillis says he hears the bugs are eating into hay bails, where they also lay their eggs. He notes while grasshopper populations are cyclical and dependant on the year’s weather conditions, he hopes to help ranchers obtain a means to deal with the pest before it becomes a real issue.
“If we don’t have something in place year after year after year, then when a year does come along when they are a major problem we’ve got no means whatsoever of dealing with them,” he says.
Gilis notes he's heard complaints from constituents in Ashcroft, Cache Creek, 70 Mile House and Westwold.
One of those people dealing with the issue is Knutsford rancher Ray Frolek.
“It’s something I’ve never seen before,” Frolek says.
The rancher started to notice part of his pasture deplete in June but watched as the area the grasshoppers were eating continued to grow over the summer.
“They just kept expanding and expanding and it got to the point where they were moving 100 metres every day,” he says of his own pasture. "It got within 100 metres of one of our hay fields. We were really concerned they were going to get into the hay fields and destroy all our crop we were going to be using for winter feed.”
Frolek says ranchers with smaller properties could be in "serious trouble" if they don’t have any fall pasture at all. Without pasture, he says it could leave ranchers with two options: buy feed or sell the herd.
Frolek hired John McCurrach from Purity Service and Supply to aerially spray a protective barriere of for his hay field from a helicopter. He says it’s stopped the grasshoppers for the interim.
McCurrach says the mild winter, early spring and dry weather in the summer months provided the perfect breeding and eating conditions for the pest. The damage extends past the district, he says.
“There was a lot of damage done to grasslands all the way from the United States border right through to the Peace River country - massive destruction from grasshoppers,” McCurrach says. “We’ve seen some of the vineyards where grasshoppers have come and eaten the leaves right off the grape plants. We’ve seen farmers have their hay fields destroyed by grasshoppers, where they’ve eaten whole stands of alfalfa."
Approval for Gillis' application to the Thompson Nicola Regional District to speak to the Minister of Agriculture is pending.
To contact a reporter for this story, email Glynn Brothen at email@example.com, or call 250-319-7494. To contact the editor, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-718-2724.