Grasshoppers, Lawrence Bruner’s Campaign

“Among the insects which do great damage are grasshoppers, and these are especially numerous this season,” said The Western Stockman and Cultivator (Omaha), July 15, 1893. “Mr. [Lawrence] Bruner, our state entomologist, who recently spent a day investigating the work of predatory insects in this vicinity, informs the writer [presumably H. F. McIntosh, editor] that every where throughout the west grasshoppers are numerous enough to entail the grass which may grow in our pasture for the remainder of the season.”

The grasshopper scourge in Nebraska had prompted a number of strategies and inventions to deal with the insects and the devastation they caused. Bruner urged farmers to “go to work at once to rid pastures and grain fields of this pest,” and then recommended for the purpose a machine he called the “hopper dozer.” The hopper dozer consisted of “a long, shallow pan made of sheet iron. A single width of stove pipe sheet is used and worked into a pan by bending up the sides and ends about four inches. This pan may be and is mounted on sled runners four or more inches high, depending on the crop growing in the field. A horse is attached to each end to draw the ‘dozer’ a boy being required to ride each horse. Back of the pan a wide mosquito bar is jumping over the ‘dozer’ and the machine is complete. Crude petroleum enough to cover the bottom of the pan about one inch deep is used to kill the hoppers. It is found by experience that hoppers are almost instantly killed on jumping into the oil and even if they succeed in jumping out they will die in a few minutes.

“Mr. Bruner last season went on a grasshopper excursion to North Dakota where the pests were devastating the wheat fields. With the hopper dozer 2,400 bushels of hoppers were caught and killed in a few days and between two and three hundred thousand bushels of wheat that would other wise surely have been destroyed was saved. One time going over a field the hopper dozer will destroy fully three-fourths of the grasshoppers, besides a large number of crickets and other destructive insects are taken, and a second time over the following day will make a clean sweep.”

Bruner calculated that a hopper dozer could be made and forty acres cleared of grasshoppers for less than ten dollars, including the cost of labor. 

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