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Post oak grasshoppers emerging

COLLEGE STATION They're not afraid of heights, they're voracious, and Dr. Spencer Behmer wants to know if you've seen them hanging out in oak trees or on your house.

They're post oak grasshoppers, and Behmer, a Texas Agricultural Experiment Station entomologist, wants to research their life cycle and behavior.

If you haven't heard of them, don't feel alone. Until recently, most Texans hadn't.

"I didn't see them for the first 25 years of my career," said Dr. John Jackman, Texas Cooperative Extension entomologist. "I would have told you there weren't any grasshoppers that chewed on trees."

Five years ago, he said, the grasshoppers' numbers started growing, and last year, exploded in areas from Dallas to near Corpus Christi.

"We don't know a whole lot about them," Jackman said.

Terry Junek, a research assistant in one of the Texas A&M University department of entomology labs, began noticing the grasshoppers about four years ago. They were crawling up the side of her Wellborn home.

The majority of adult post oak grasshoppers have short wings and are flightless, Behmer said, but they love to climb up trees and houses.

"Last year they were in enormous amounts," Junek said, "and mainly on the east side of my house."

If hordes of grasshoppers on houses aren't bad enough, they make their presence even more obnoxious by leaving frass -- or insect excrement -- behind, which often leaves a near-permanent stain, Behmer said The stain is the result of tannins -- the compound used in tanning leather -- which are found in oak leaves. As the frass dries, the tannins bind strongly to other chemicals. Once this has occurred, stains become very difficult to remove.

The post oak grasshoppers become adults in late April, and from early May to mid-June the females lay their eggs in the soil. A female typically lays five to six eggs at a time in a pod, and will produce two to f
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Contact: Dr. Spencer Behmer
s-behmer@tamu.edu
979-845-3411
Texas A&M University - Agricultural Communications
17-Apr-2007


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