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Grasshopper invasion: just what Western states don't want

The grasshopper is expected to swarm Western states this summer in record numbers, gobbling up grasslands and costing ranchers millions of dollars.

An adult male migratory grasshopper is seen near Wheatland, Wyoming, shown in this file photo. Grasshoppers are expected to swarm Western states this summer in record numbers.

Scott Schell/University of Wyoming/AP

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They’re voracious, they’re costly, and they’re coming – again. Grasshoppers are expected to swarm Western states this summer in record numbers, gobbling up grasslands and costing cattle owners millions of dollars.

The more grass the hopping hordes consume, the less cows can eat. For ranchers, that means skinnier cattle and less money.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) found an unusually high number of grasshoppers in its annual survey of the flying grass-eaters last fall. If the weather is warm in the coming weeks, the countless eggs laid by the grasshopper could turn into an epic infestation across Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Idaho, and South Dakota.

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Ranchers are already coping with a tough economy and climbing oil prices. Now, they're hoping that a cool, wet spring will wipe out many of the young grasshoppers, or nymphs, before they’re old enough to start their collective grasslands binge.

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