Calgary

Grasshopper invasion described as 'horror movie' traps residents indoors in Lethbridge, Alta.

Hordes of grasshoppers are taking over a Lethbridge neighbourhood to the point that homeowners can barely go outside.

One homeowner is questioning whether their family needs to move

From hot to ’hoppers: Weather conditions right for a population boom

CBC News Edmonton

11 days ago
1:18
Alberta experienced a plague of grasshoppers in the mid-1980s but environmental scientist Dan Johnson in Lethbridge — where the critters have already reached nightmarish proportions — says the recent hot spell will cause a big jump (so to speak) in numbers. 1:18

The apocalypse is coming to southern Alberta and it's in the form of grasshoppers.

Maybe it isn't really the apocalypse, but after a worldwide pandemic, extreme heat and smoky skies, hearing that hordes of grasshoppers are invading a Lethbridge neighbourhood is bound to give you the creeps. 

The insects are crawling up houses, destroying gardens and jumping at anyone who walks by in Copperwood, a neighborhood that borders farmland on the west side of the city.

Resident Paige Thornborough says it's gotten to the point that her family members have to cover their mouths if they step outside.

"We've actually had to start eating meals with our blinds and our curtains closed because they like to crawl up the windows and they keep pinging off of them … and we were just losing our appetite," she told the Calgary Eyeopener on Tuesday.

She says the scene is straight out of a "horror movie" has been going on for about a month now.

Lethbridge homeowner Paige Thornborough says a grasshopper infestation has forced her and her family to stay inside. (Paige Thornborough )

"We've been living in our house for about five years and usually, you know, we get some grasshoppers here and there, but this is definitely the first year that we've had anything close to this magnitude," she said.

After doing some research about grasshopper infestations, the mother of two says natural solutions haven't worked and that pesticides have barely made a difference.

"We feel like our hands are pretty tied right now in terms of what our options are," she said. "Some of our neighbours are using more of the chemicals and they're saying it helps for about two hours and after that, they're right back."

Thornborough adds that it also sounds like it will become a common issue for years to come.

"I don't know what we're going to do. We picked the house because of the view and, you know, we can't even enjoy it, so I don't know how long we'll be sticking around."

Hot weather part of problem

Dan Johnson, a professor of environmental science at the University of Lethbridge and a grasshopper expert, says part of the problem is that grasshoppers love the hot weather Alberta has been experiencing.

"It may lead to a population boom next year," he told Edmonton's Radio Active. "This hot dry weather is turning into a breeding ground for some creatures." 

The professor explains that when the weather is 30 degrees, the insect's body temperature shoots up, allowing it to grow faster and produce more eggs.

"If they have a couple of years where it's hot and dry here, then they do build up … [but] if they have a spring when it rains on them or they get even snowed on after they hatch, that's what really knocks them back."

He says that each year, the provincial government does a survey to forecast how big or small infestations will be; however, it's trickier than it sounds.

"One of the big, big factors is changes in species," he said. "So it's hard to stay on top of what to expect unless you actually go out there and do the field work."


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener and Radio Active.

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