Lighten up and check the ditches

We often forget the small pleasures of life and the unique quirks of our training and jobs that are odd, but fun. One such example is the use of roadside and windshield cruises. I have a "dinger" that I actually use as a "moving" survey technique to detect developing grasshopper populations in areas of historic outbreaks.

As I travel the back roads of central and western Minnesota, en route to the inevitable team meeting, I stay close to the grassy roadside and count the number of dings bouncing off the front right fender of the bugmobile. So far, no thumps; and who said DOT maintenance cuts were without benefit? A constant one ding per second for greater than a minute prompts me to stop, safely park, and then dash through the ditch swinging a survey net to capture the elusive orthopterans! So far, no witnesses.

I take my catch and sort to see the mix of nymphs to adults. Have I stumbled upon a scattered few adults almost done with feeding, or a mixed generational swarm of biblical proportions that could ravage trees and shrubs in the adjacent area? If the location has both the hazard (high numbers with lots of nymphs) and the target (grassed-in plantations of less than ten years in age), I'll stop in and talk to the local landowner (especially if there is a tree farm sign) to alert them to the potential problem. We'll talk about the importance of timing the haying and how grasshoppers will move to leave strips of vegetation that can then be sprayed. It doesn't happen very often, but it does work.

What was that in the ditch Martha? I don't know Fred, but lock the doors and keep going. It's that darn DNR again!