‘It breaks your heart’: Grasshoppers return to ravage Queensland paddocks

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Grasshoppers and locusts have descended on pastures in western Queensland for the fourth year in a row, devastating graziers.

Longreach grazier Cam Tindall said he first noticed them after a small fall of rain towards the end of 2021.

He said years of drought had meant there was not much grass in pastures, but that late rain saw some small growth.

“They’re just lousy here,” he said.

“Any bit of herbage we did have, it’s just gone again.”

Mr Tindall said it had been devastating to watch grass grow and have it disappear before his eyes.

Grazier Cameron Tindall standing in front of treesGrazier Cameron Tindall standing in front of trees
Western Queensland grazier Cam Tindall says it is heartbreaking to be impacted by grasshoppers again.(ABC Rural: Maddelin McCosker)

“It breaks your heart,” he said.

“And we’re not the only people.”

Solutions available says government

Queensland’s Department of Agriculture and Fishers (DAF) said it was aware of the problem, adding it had received reports from areas around Hughenden, Winton, Muttaburra and the Channel Country.

“Adult spur-throated locusts were reported from October to December 2021,” a spokesperson said. 

A green locust on red dirtA green locust on red dirt
There have been reports of spur throated locusts and grasshoppers since October 2021.(supplied NSW DPI)

“Although numbers still persist in most areas, they are not considered sufficient to cause significant pasture damage.

DAF established a Grasshopper Working Group in 2021, and it continues to monitor the situation closely and conduct “regular and structured on-ground surveillance of locust species across the region.”

A brown landscape sits beneath a vivid blue sky, with a few green patches of grass remaining.A brown landscape sits beneath a vivid blue sky, with a few green patches of grass remaining.
Few patches of grass remained after grasshoppers decimated pasture at Darr River Downs near Longreach, in 2021.(ABC Western Queensland: Craig Fitzsimmons)

In March 2021, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) permitted the emergency use of the chemicals fenitrothion and fipronil “for the control of grasshoppers in pasture.”

It’s a costly control method, with one grazier paying $70,000 to spray fipronil from a hired crop duster when he first noticed the insects last year.

Mr Tindall said he would consider using the spray method, but he would only do it after good rain.

“I definitely would,” he said.

“I think the only hope we’ve got is to get heaps of rain.”