Evil Western Spruce Budworms

I used to think that the most reviled creature on earth was the grasshopper. Last year we had an epic infestation. They ate everything, including our spruce trees.

But I’ve recently discovered something even more evil, more voracious, the Western Spruce Budworm (Choristoneura occidentalis).

I don’t have much capacity to hate. But I hate these things to the center of my being.

Budworms have a one year life cycle. The adult stage is a small mottled moth. After mating in mid-summer, females lay batches of eggs on the undersides of spruce needles. Larvae hatch about ten days later then hole up for the rest of the year. In the following spring, larvae migrate into new buds, forming silken cocoons. The destroy the new growth and cause massive defoliation.

This year, they’ve been going to town on our blue spruce. Our green spruce our relatively unaffected.

Now normally I’m not wont to use the nuclear option of pesticides. We drink from a well, our house resides on a bluff above the free-flowing Yellowstone river, and we have carefully created a bird habitat around our house. We don’t want to disturb any of these things. But watching our blue spruce getting savaged is just too much.

I sprayed our trees with Sevin today in the hopes of decimating the budworm cities. Without it, I think our spruce would be dead in the next few years.

Grasshopper Infestation!

Neither Laura Ingalls Wilder nor the cast and crew of Little House On the Prairie ever had it so bad.

The combination of heavy winter snows and a wet spring turned Paradise Valley, Montana into, well, paradise. Everything’s Gone Green, to quote New Order.

But all good things must be balanced by some bad. This year it’s grasshoppers. The ground literally moves in waves when you walk. They are everywhere. They’ve killed half of my sunflower crop. Today I noticed that they are now all over our trees – the crab apples are getting hit really hard, but so too are the blue spruce. Blue spruce? I had no idea grasshoppers would eat evergreens. Apparently they eat almost anything. I really hate them.

I’m very reluctant to spray as we live in the Yellowstone River watershed. Most pesticides effective against members of the Locustidae family are also highly toxic to aquatic life. And I have no idea what poisoned grasshoppers might do to our abundant bird life.

So today we open a new front on the Global War on Grasshoppers using biological warfare: Nosema locustae, a single celled microsporidian parasite of locusts.