- 5 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Grasshoppers & Locusts that Eat Plants
- How to Get Rid of Grasshoppers
- Overview of the Grasshopper
- Life Cycle of Grasshoppers
- Common Habitats for Grasshoppers
- Environmental Grasshopper Control
- Organic Grasshopper Control
- Beneficial Animals
- Grasshopper FAQ
- Colorado State University
- What Do Grasshoppers Eat?
- What Are Grasshoppers?
- Grasshoppers And Humans
- Stop Grasshoppers in Your Garden
- Controlling Grasshoppers
- SO MANY GRASSHOPPERS! ^
- GRASSHOPPER BIOLOGY
- GRASSHOPPERS EAT EVERYTHING!
- HOW TO CONTROL GRASSHOPPERS
- LAWN GRANULES FOR LOCAL GRASSHOPPERS
- BEST GRASSHOPPER SPRAY
- GARDEN SAFE GRASSHOPPER SPRAY
- ORGANIC SPRAY FOR GRASSHOPPERS
- CONTACT US
- Ask a Specialist: Controlling Grasshoppers in the Yard and Garden
5 Natural Ways to Get Rid of Grasshoppers & Locusts that Eat Plants
Here are five natural remedies we recommend to get rid of grasshoppers and locusts that eat your precious garden plants.
How to Get Rid of Grasshoppers
1. Apply a Garlic Spray
Garlic odor can help deter grasshoppers and other common garden pests. To make the garlic spray, blend two bulbs of garlic with 10 cups of water then heat up the mixture until it starts to boil. Next, let the mixture sit overnight.
To use the garlic spray, fill a spray bottle with one part garlic solution and three part water. Once ready, spray the solution onto the leaves of affected plants. Be sure to spray the undersides of the leaves as well.
2. Dust the Leaves with Flour
Flour can cause grasshoppers to starve by gumming up their mouth. Get some ordinary all-purpose flour (don’t use other types of flour as they may contain substances like salt) and sprinkle a thin layer on the leaves of affected plants.
3. Introduce Natural Predators
A long-term solution is to attract natural grasshopper predators to your garden. For example, many species of birds, such as swallows, like to feast on grasshoppers. To attract these birds, you may want to set up a birdbath or a feeder in the backyard. You could also consider introducing beneficial insects, such as praying mantis, to the garden.
4. Set up a Long Grass Trap
Grasshoppers prefer areas with long grass. You could try and isolate the grasshoppers to one area of the garden by growing a patch of uncut grass in an isolated corner. This could make it easier to catch and get rid of grasshoppers.
5. Raise Your Own Chickens or Guinea Fowls
This obviously won’t work for everybody but chickens and guinea fowls do a great job of eating grasshoppers and other common garden pests. There are many great resources you can read online if you are interested in raising these birds at home.
These birds can also help control other common pests in the backyard, such as ants and cockroaches. Insects, as long as they haven’t been exposed to toxic pesticide, are a good source of food for these backyard birds as they are a strong source of protein.
Sam Choan is the Founder of Organic Lesson. He started this site to share tips on using natural remedies at home when such options are available.
There’s nothing worse…
You’ve cultivated an amazing garden, full of lush greens and veggies, only to have it relentlessly attacked by grasshoppers. Unlike many garden pests, which focus on one type of plant, grasshoppers aren’t too picky and can obliterate most of the plants you’ve spent all season growing.
In this guide, you’ll learn many different ways to prevent, control, and kill grasshoppers, even if they’ve already infested your garden.
Best Organic Grasshopper Control Products
- Garlic Spray
- Hot Pepper Wax
- Neem Oil
- Nolo Bait
- Kaolin Clay
- Diatomaceous Spray
- Pesticidal Soaps
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Overview of the Grasshopper
They may look cool, but grasshoppers can ruin your harvest! source
Grasshoppers can decimate your garden. They eat around 50% of their weight every single day. No matter where they are in their life cycle, they’ll chew away at both the stems and leaves of plants in your garden. If left unchecked, this damage can become severe, leaving your entire garden without leaves, unable to grow.
Grasshopper Fact: Recent figures suggest that grasshoppers eat 1/4th of the total available plant material in the western states of America.
Adults (1-2 inch long) are brown to reddish yellow or green in color with prominent jaws, fully developed wings, and short antennae. They have enlarged hind legs and can jump great distances. Immature stages, or nymphs, are similar in appearance to adults, but are smaller and have wing buds instead of wings.
Note: Ten adults per square yard are economically damaging to rangeland, according to the USDA. Smaller numbers can damage cropland or gardens, depending on crop type and age. A classic study showed that 6-7 adults per square yard on 10 acres of pasture ate as much as a cow.
Life Cycle of Grasshoppers
The life cycle of a grasshopper.source
Not all grasshopper species are bad for your garden, but the ones that are all have a similar developmental cycle. Learning how their life cycle works is step one to killing grasshoppers before they can destroy your garden.
Grasshoppers lay their eggs at the end of the summer, buried in the soil in pods. These eggs lay in the soil through the winter, going into diapause, and hatch in early spring.
As soon as they hatch, grasshopper nymphs immediately start to consume plant matter in the area where they hatch. As they grow, they begin to exhaust the food supply and start to move to new areas.
It takes about 1.5-2 months for grasshoppers to reach adult stage. But once they do, they just continue to munch on the plants in your garden until they’re killed by winter.
Common Habitats for Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers are found all around the world — in fact, the only continent that isn’t plagued by them is Antarctica. While you can find them in many different types of landscapes, they prefer warm, dry climates and areas with low-lying grasses and plants. This means you’re likely to find them in fields, deserts, meadows, grasslands, and mountains. And your garden, of course.
Grasshoppers eat plants, but most specialize on grasses or broadleaf plants. Pest species, on the other hand, feed on a wide variety of plants and will readily switch from grasses to broadleaves. As nymphs, grasshoppers tend to congregate and remain near their hatching areas. They will remain there as long as there is an adequate supply of food and shelter.When food runs out they will move. Immature grasshoppers can’t move very far, because they don’t have wings, but winged adults can fly for miles in search of new food sources
Hungry grasshoppers like gardens because they have optimal moisture and excellent plant growing conditions. That gives them an abundant food supply that they don’t have to spend much energy to get to.
While there are many different methods to get rid of grasshoppers, they can all be grouped into three different categories:
- Organic Applications
- Animal Control
It might be tempting to just pick one method out of the list you’ll find below, but you will have better results by mixing a few different methods to form an integrated approach to grasshopper control.
This way, if one method isn’t 100% effective, the other techniques can pick up the rest.
Let’s get into it!
Environmental Grasshopper Control
The first line of defense against grasshoppers is to either create an unattractive garden environment for them, or to create an attractive environment away from your garden.
Flowers to Plant
One of the first things you can do is plant flowers that grasshoppers do not like. Mixing these into your garden layout will keep grasshoppers away from plants that you don’t want them to munch on:
- Crepe myrtle
- Moss rose
Vegetables to Grow
Even better, try planting veggies that grasshoppers don’t like to eat! There are a few that I have used in my garden and they have worked very well: squash, tomatoes, and peas.
Thankfully, these aren’t ‘weird’ veggies that I don’t have a use for besides repelling grasshoppers. I eat squash, peas, and tomatoes ALL of the time, so planting even more to repel those pesky bugs isn’t a burden on my garden!
Add Tall Grass to the Outskirts of Your Land
If given the choice, grasshoppers prefer to feast and hide in tall grass. If you have the space, add grass around your garden as the summer draws to a close. You can use it as a hedge against any grasshoppers, providing them a better habitat than your precious garden.
As long as you are weeding your garden effectively, the grasshoppers should settle in the grass and not your garden.
Use Floating Row Covers
Dalen HG25 Gardeneer By Harvest-Guard Seed Germination & Frost Protection Cover 5′ x 25′
- Made in China
- Package length : 38.1″
- Package width : 26.42″
If you don’t have grasshoppers in your garden and want it to stay that way, using a floating row cover or a fabric barrier is a great way to protect your plants. The fabric should be held up with hoops, although stakes will work decently.
Whatever you do, make sure that plants are not touching your floating row cover, because grasshoppers can still attack them from the outside of the fabric.
Harvest-Guard has 5×50′ and a 5×25′ row cover fabric that is well-reviewed and will get the job done if you decide to use this technique.
Rototill in Spring
You can take advantage of the grasshopper’s life cycle by roto-tilling your land in early spring. We know that they lay eggs in late summer, the eggs are dormant over winter, and hatch in spring. This means that an early spring rototill can destroy the egg pods and disrupt the life cycle of this pesky green hopper.
Organic Grasshopper Control
If you want to add another grasshopper prevention tool to your garden, consider organic grasshopper sprays and baits. Some of the following can be homemade and others must be purchased from your garden store or online.
Garlic spray has been shown to deal with grasshoppers pretty well. They really don’t like the smell or taste of garlic, so coating your plants in garlic spray is a great way to prevent them from a grasshopper’s hungry appetite.
Use a highly concentrated version so you can dilute it and spray it over a large area with a pressurized spray bottle. While you can make your own garlic spray, there are fantastic commercial garlic sprays available on Amazon that I use in my own garden instead of making it myself.
Hot Pepper Wax
Neptune’s Harvest HPI132 Hot Pepper Wax Insect Repellent, 1-Quart
- Finally there is a natural insecticide that really…
- Repels up to three weeks
- Normal rains or irrigation cannot wash it off
Hot pepper wax spray is another application that works by being a disgusting flavor for soft-bodied insects like grasshoppers. They just can’t stand the taste of the cayenne pepper, which is the main ingredient in this concentrated spray. Applying it to the leaves of your garden, especially on the plants more prone to grasshopper attack, should go a long way to repelling grasshoppers.
Neem oil is a popular organic application that’s used as a fungicide as well as a pesticide. Some gardeners have success with neem oil for grasshopper control, while others report that they prefer using other methods. Either way, it has been shown to both repel grasshoppers and inhibit their egg-laying process. That disrupts their life-cycle and ideally means you won’t have to deal with them in the coming spring.
Neem oil from the Neem tree in Australia can be used as a repellent. It works in several different ways. It is a repellent, a feeding inhibitor, deters egg-laying, and retards growth.
NOLO Bait – Grashopper & Cricket Control (1 lb Bag)
- Safe to use around humans, plants, and animals
- Most effective grasshopper/cricket bait
- %100 Organic
Nolo bait is a product that takes advantage of a disease that affects most species of grasshoppers, Nosema Locustae. This is a single-cell organism that will infect and destroy grasshoppers in every stage of their developmental cycle. While they do affect some other types of crickets, the cross-species damage is low.
When using nolo bait, you have to time your application correctly. If you don’t get to the grasshoppers after they have hatched and are nymphs, the effectiveness of the treatment will be diminished.
When they are about 0.25″ long, apply the nolo bait. Grasshoppers that consume this will have their blood poisoned, causing death. Here’s where it gets interesting: the remaining grasshoppers will eat the dead ones, causing them to be infected as well.
This infection mechanism means that nolo bait can attack grasshopper infestations over the course of multiple life cycles, because all it takes is 1 infected hopper to keep the disease spreading. Use it over large areas to be sure that you are infecting enough grasshoppers for the disease to wipe them out completely.
Kaolin clay is a newer type of grasshopper prevention that may be useful to you. It’s a powdered clay that is mixed with water and soap and then sprayed onto the leaf surfaces in your garden. This causes a film to coat the leaf surface, repelling grasshoppers.
Many people find kaolin clay to be unsavory because it makes their garden look uglier, but some people love the prevention measures. Another thing to consider is that you’ll have to wash your greens and harvests more thoroughly if you are using kaolin clay because it is a leaf coating.
Sale DiatomaceousEarth DE10, 100% Organic Food Grade Diamateous Earth Powder – Safe For Children & Pets…
Diatomaceous earth is a popular garden additive for many different reasons, but most notably because of how it affects pests that you don’t want in the garden. It’s made up of the shells of fossilized algae. When it comes in contact with a soft-bodied insect like a grasshopper, it effectively dehydrates their body, causing them to die.
If you are going to use this product, be sure to have eye and mouth protection as you don’t want to inhale this or get it in your eyes at all. You can either dust it on crops or in grasshopper-infested areas, or mix it with water and use a sprayer to apply it. It will become effective again once the water evaporates, leaving a film of diatomaceous earth on your plants.
You can purchase organic pesticidal soaps that can destroy grasshoppers with ease. They contain fatty acids that dissolve the body of the grasshopper immediately upon contact. This causes them to lose water, dehydrating them. Death follows shortly. You must be careful when using these products though and make sure that they won’t have the same effect on your plants! The last thing you want to do is spray for grasshopper control and end up killing your plants as well.
Some gardeners have gone truly home-made and reported that applying flour dust to their garden has an effect on grasshopper populations, though this is the least well researched option of every one I have listed so far. If you have any experience with this technique, please let me know in the comments!
If you have the luxury of having animals in the garden, you can use them as insect control as well! Here are two types of animals that are natural predators to grasshoppers.
Chickens and Guinea Hens
Chickens, guinea hens, and even ducks absolutely love munching on grasshoppers. Contrary to what the grocery stores would have you believe, chickens love to eat bugs and are omnivores, not herbivores.
So, adding some of these birds to the garden is a great way to get fresh eggs with a balanced nutrient profile as well as control your bug problem! The only issue is that chickens can also attack your garden if you’re not careful, so be sure to pen them off when they’re not on the hunt for bugs!
Wild birds also enjoy munching on a hopper from time to time. In the summer, see if you can encourage these birds to frequent your garden in search of grasshoppers. The best way to do this is to add posts, trellises, and other vertical structures for them to sit on while they survey the garden.
Q. What is the difference between grasshoppers and locusts?
A. Many gardeners think that grasshoppers and locusts are the exact same bug. All locusts are grasshoppers, but not all grasshoppers are locusts. It’s kind of like how all squares are rectangles, but not all rectangles are squares.
Q. So what differentiates a locust from a grasshopper, then?
A. The biggest difference is in their behavior patterns. Locusts fly and swarm together when there are a lot of them in the same place, while grasshoppers do not exhibit this swarming behavior.
Q. Grasshoppers are destroying my strawberries! Help!?
A. If these green hoppers are munching on your strawberries, make sure to use safe methods for control, especially if you are spraying. Remember, you’re eating the berries!
Many commercial strawberry farmers have good results with either the garlic spray or hot pepper wax spray that i mentioned above. While it’s true that grasshoppers won’t actually eat the berries, they can decimate the leaves, which will severely inhibit the yield of your strawberry plants.
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Colorado State University
by W.S. Cranshaw and R. Hammon* (1/13)
- Grasshoppers are the most difficult insect to control because they are highly mobile.
- All grasshoppers lay their eggs in soil.
- There are over 100 species of grasshoppers in Colorado.
- During periods when local outbreaks are developing, control usually involves using sprays or baits.
Grasshoppers can be the most noticeable and damaging insects to yards and fields. They also are among those most difficult to control, since they are highly mobile. For many reasons, grasshopper populations fluctuate greatly from year to year, and may cause serious damage during periodic outbreaks. Problems tend to increase beginning in early summer and can persist until hard frosts.
Over 100 species of grasshoppers occur in Colorado and their food habits vary. Some primarily feed on grasses or sedges, while others prefer broadleaved plants. Other grasshoppers restrict their feeding to plants of no great economic value and a few even feed primarily on weed species (e.g., snakeweed). However, others will readily feed on garden and landscape plants (Table 1).
Among vegetable crops certain plants are favored, such as lettuce, carrots, beans, sweet corn, and onions. Squash, peas, and tomatoes (leaves, not fruit) are among the plants that tend to be avoided.
Grasshoppers less commonly feed on leaves of trees and shrubs. However, during outbreak years even these may be damaged. Furthermore, grasshoppers may incidentally damage shelterbelt plantings when they rest on twigs and gnaw on bark, sometimes causing small branches to die back.
|Figure 1. Differential grasshopper.||Figure 2. Migratory grasshopper.|
|Figure 3. Twostriped grasshopper.||Figure 4. Redlegged grasshopper.|
Figure 5. Clearwinged grasshopper.
Grasshopper Life History
All grasshoppers lay their eggs in soil, in the form of tight clustered pods. Relatively dry soils, undisturbed by tillage or irrigations, are preferred. Egg laying may be concentrated at certain sites with favorable soil texture, slope, and orientation, producing ‘egg beds.’
The egg stage is the overwintering stage of most, but not all, grasshoppers. For the majority of species the eggs hatch in mid- to late-spring, varying with soil temperatures. At egg hatch the tiny first stage nymphs move to the surface and seek tender foliage on which to feed. The first few days are critical to survival. Adverse weather or absence of suitable foods can cause high mortality. Surviving grasshoppers continue to develop over the next several weeks, usually molting through five or six stages, before ultimately reaching the adult form.
Adult grasshoppers may live for months, interspersing feeding with mating and egg laying. Species that winter in the egg stage die out in late summer and early fall. A few species, perhaps most conspicuously the speckledwinged grasshopper, spend winter as a nymph, remain active during warm periods, and may develop to the adult form by late winter.
Figure 6. Grasshopper egg bed.
The most important factors are weather related, particularly around the time of egg hatch. For example, cold, wet weather is very destructive to newly hatched grasshoppers. However, very dry winter and spring conditions also can be harmful to survival since required tender new plant growth is not available.
Some insects commonly feed on grasshoppers. Many species of blister beetles (see fact sheet 5.524, Blister Beetles in Forage Crops) develop on grasshopper egg pods and blister beetle abundance cycles along with their grasshopper hosts. Adult robber flies are common predators of grasshoppers during summer and other flies develop as internal parasites of grasshoppers. Many birds, notably horned larks and kestrals, feed heavily on grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are also frequently eaten by coyotes.
Grasshoppers are also subject to some unusual diseases. A fungus (Entomophthora grylli) infects grasshoppers causing them to move upwards and cling to plants shortly before they kill the insect host. Stiff, dead grasshoppers found stuck to a grass stem or twig indicate infection with this disease. A very large nematode (Mermis nigriscens) also sometimes develops in grasshoppers. Both the fungus disease and nematode parasite are favored by wet weather.
| Table 1. Primary grasshoppers that damage gardens
and small acreage pasture areas in Colorado
|Common Name||Scientific Name|
|Differential grasshopper||Melanoplus differentialis||Often one of the first grasshoppers found moving into
gardens and one of the largest in the genus Melanoplus.
|Migratory grasshopper||Melanoplus sanguinipes||Often the most damaging species to croplands. Any early
hatching species and capable of long migration flight.
|Twostriped grasshopper||Melanoplus bivittatus||Often the most common species damaging gardens, it migrates
from empty lots, roadsides, and other undisturbed sites. It often
hatches in late spring, a few weeks later than many grasshoppers.
|Redlegged grasshopper||Melanoplus femurrubrum||A widely distributed grasshopper that feeds on many
garden plants. It tends to be most abundant in moist sites and is
one of the later hatching species.
|Clearwinged grasshopper||Camnula pellucida||The primary species present in recent outbreaks reported
in areas of the West Slope and around Steamboat Springs. An early
hatching grasshopper that restricts feeding to grasses.
Managing Grasshoppers with Baits and Sprays
During periods when a local outbreak develops, control usually involves using sprays or baits. To be successful these need to be applied to developing stages of grasshoppers and concentrated at sites where egg laying occurs. Ability to control grasshoppers declines as grasshoppers develop and migrate.
Surveys of grasshoppers can be very useful in anticipating problems and treating appropriately. Numbers of grasshoppers present in late summer and early fall can be a good indicator of problems the subsequent year. Follow-up surveys the following spring to detect young nymphs can determine when eggs have hatched. Area-wide surveys may locate egg beds and other sites where early season activity originates.
Treatments should be directed at the young grasshoppers and nearby vegetation present in these breeding sites. At lower altitudes, this often occurs in May; early June may be the optimal time for grasshoppers at higher elevations. Sprays of insecticides are most effective at this time and several insecticides are effective (Table 2). Insecticide options are greater for larger acreages and unit costs are less expensive. The addition of canola oil to insecticide sprays can improve control by making treated foliage more attractive to feeding grasshoppers.
Alternately, baits containing carbaryl (Sevin) can be broadcast. Bait formulations are made by mixing the insecticide with bran or some other carrier and kill grasshoppers that feed on the bait. These treatments limit application effects on other insects present in the treated area. However, availability of Sevin baits is frequently limited, or prohibitively priced for use on large areas. Baits must be reapplied after rain.
Insecticide treatments do not need to completely cover the area since grasshoppers are mobile. Insecticides applied as bands covering 50 percent of the area, or even less, have proved very effective for control of grasshoppers in rangelands. Backpack sprayers and application equipment modified for use on ATVs can be used in larger acreages. A review of this method, known as Reduced Area Acreage Treatments (RAATS) has been prepared by the University of Wyoming at: www.sdvc.uwyo.edu/grasshopper/atvraats.htm
Where grasshoppers develop over large areas and impact several properties, coordinated area-wide control is very useful. As this requires some additional preparations in planning, early surveys are even more important. Grasshopper control often is much more successful as a community effort.
Once grasshoppers have reached the adult stage and migrations occur, some insecticides may be applied directly to plants. Such applications have only short effectiveness and damage can occur before individual grasshoppers are killed. Furthermore, the choice of insecticides is more limited since few allow direct application to garden fruit and vegetables.
|Table 2: Insecticides used to control grasshoppers.|
|Common Name||Trade Name(s)||Labeled Uses, Comments|
|carbaryl||Sevin||Most formulations allow use on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables
(1-14 day preharvest interval). Available for use as sprays, dust
and in baits.
|acephate||Orthene||Has systemic activity in plants and may persist longer than most
other insecticides. Uses are limited to non-edible crops.
|permethrin||Many trade names.||Widely available for garden use and most formulations allow use
on a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. Fairly short persistence
of effect for grasshopper control.
|diflubenzuron||Dimilin||Growth regulator that affects chitin formation as grasshopper nymphs
molt. Effective only on immature insects but has long residual activity.
Restricted Use insecticide. Most use will be by licensed pesticide
applicators on pastures.
|Nosema locustae||NOLO Bait, Semaspore||A biological control that produces infection from a
protozoan. It is relatively slow acting and only effective against
young grasshoppers. Use allowed in Certified Organic crop production.
Nosema locustae Baits
Baits containing the protozoan Nosema locustae is a biological control option that may be considered for treating grasshopper breeding sites. This is sold under the trade names NOLO Bait or Semaspore and can produce infection of many species of grasshoppers. Because it is selective in effects, only affecting grasshoppers, its use is sometimes considered desirable.
There are some limitations to Nosema locustae baits. Only young grasshoppers are susceptible, and it can not be used effectively after adult migrations have occurred. It is also fairly slow acting and does not equally infect all grasshopper species. Often it is most effectively used in a long-term grasshopper management program, in combination with other controls.
Nosema locustae baits are also perishable. They are best kept refrigerated before use. Expiration dates are usually printed on packages and should be checked.
Some Interesting and Unusual Grasshoppers
Among the 100-odd species of Colorado grasshoppers are some that may attract attention because of unusual size, coloration or habit (Table 2). None of these are damaging to gardens and croplands because they do not develop outbreak populations or limit their feeding to plants that are not economically important.
Speckledwinged grasshopper (Arphia conspersa) – This is the grasshopper most commonly observed during warm days of winter and early spring. Eggs of the speckledwinged grasshopper hatch in mid-late summer and they spend winter as nymphs and, later, adults. The adults have colored hindwings, often with a yellow or reddish spot and in flight they make a crackling noise. They limit their feeding to grasses and sedges.
|Figure 7. Specklewinged grasshopper.||Figure 8. A mating pair of plains lubber grasshopper.|
Plains lubber/Homesteader (Brachystola magna) – This is the largest grasshopper found in the region, an may exceed 3 to 4 grams in weight. It has stubby wings and it is flightless, but can be often seen in midsummer slowly hopping across rural roads in eastern Colorado. The body is colorful, with a mixture of green, pink and brown. The plains lubber will feed on many plants, but is most commonly associated with patches of sunflowers.
Figure 9. Carolina grasshopper
Carolina grasshopper (Dissosteira carolina) – A grasshopper commonly disturbed to flight when walking along open areas of bare earth. The hindwings are dark with a light band along the edge and in when flying may hover and produce a faint audible noise. Overall color ranges are light greyish yellow to reddish brown and they often blend well with soil background. They feed on a variety of plants but rarely become abundant enough at a site to cause any serious damage.
Barber pole grasshopper/Pictured grasshopper (Dactylotum bicolor) – This is the most colorful grasshopper found in the state with markings of reddish orange, black and yellow. It occurs in areas of the eastern plains and adults are present in late summer. They feed on broadleaf plants, but usually only those of low forage value and it is not considered a pest species.
Figure 10. Barber pole grasshopper, late stage nymph.
Greenstreaked grasshopper/Snakeweed grasshopper (Hesperotettix viridis) – A bright green, colorful grasshopper found throughout much of the state but most common on the eastern plains. It feeds on a limited number of plants, including many that are considered rangeland weeds (e.g., snakeweed, ragweed).
Red shanks (Xanthippus corallipes) – A large grasshopper active earlier in the year than most species. The body color is irregularly splotched and banded, allowing it to camouflage on bare soil. However, the hindwings are bright pink, orange or yellow. It is a grass feeder found in dry, prairie areas.
Spotted bird grasshopper/Lined bird grasshopper (Schistocerca alutacea) – A very long grasshopper (ca. 2-inch long) and strong flier. The lined bird, S. a. shoshone, is found along riverways and moist ravines where it feeds on various shrubs. The Great Plains/sandhills subspecies, S. a. lineata, is found in dry, shrubby areas with large weeds. Adults are present in late summer and early fall but are never very abundant.
Figure 11. Mormon cricket female. (Photo courtesy John Capinera.)
Mormon cricket (Anabrus simplex) – This large insect is neither a cricket nor a true grasshopper, but a longhorned grasshopper (Tettigoniidae family), related to a katydid. It lives on the open sagebrush/grassland rangelands of the Colorado Plateau and Great Basin at elevations between 6,500 and 11,000 ft. It attracts attention because of periodic massive migrations of millions of individuals that may devour significant amounts of vegetation. Mormon crickets prefer broadleaf plants, but will also eat range grasses and many crop plants.
1 W.S. Cranshaw, Colorado State University Extension entomologist and professor, bioagricultural sciences and pest management; and R. Hammon, Extension entomology and agronomy agent, Mesa county. 4/96. Revised 1/13.
Colorado State University, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and Colorado counties cooperating. CSU Extension programs are available to all without discrimination. No endorsement of products mentioned is intended nor is criticism implied of products not mentioned.
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How many of you know what do grasshoppers eat? Surely not many! Grasshoppers are insects that belong to the suborder Caelifera and the order Orthoptera. When any creature has unusually strong hind legs, we may be sure it as a jumper, and the grasshopper shows this peculiarity at first glance. Some other species such as crickets, cockroaches, and katydids also befall under the same group. Before being finally shaped as adults these insects run through various stages. Baby grasshoppers are known as nymphs.
These nymphs are not choosy about their diets and are considered to be opportunistic feeders in that they tend to feed on tender plants, clover, fresh shoots, little grass, and other small plants. As baby grasshoppers grow older, they go through a molting process in which the old skin is replaced by the new and a stronger one. Now they’re no longer nymphs and they can easily eat several tougher plants and other grass.
What Do Grasshoppers Eat?
Grasshoppers are not fully classified as herbivores; however they predominantly feed on plants, shrubs, and trees. Other food includes wheat, crops, oats, barley, and dead animals.
The vegetables incorporate broccoli, lettuce, beans, onions, tomatoes and carrot. These insects have successfully undergone the stage of molting and they can now leap and chew on almost anything. Some of the most favorite grasshoppers diet include corn, wheat, alfalfa and barley.
These insects feed on leaves, flowers and stems. They will also consume mosh and lichen off a tree’s bark. Grasshoppers are capable to ingest even the driest plants for the reason that a saliva chemical exists inside their stomach. In general, grasshoppers are lone creatures and they alter their outer shells according to the external environmental pressure.
Must Reads Grasshopper Facts For Kids
Now you know what do grasshoppers eat? Despite the fact that grasshopper’s flight is known to be swift and short, in years of famine or starvation certain grasshoppers have flown higher and at longer distances, a fact recorded in holy books like Qur’an and Bible. These species start eating one edge of a leaf, which it grasps amid the front feet so as to hold it strongly.
These species are known to feed upon grass and other herbage that are specifically suitable for grassy fields. Birds are the most frequent predators of grasshoppers; however, because of its color resemblance with leaves or trees, it’s being automatically camouflaged.
Go to any market in Mexico and you’ll see piles of grasshoppers—dusted with chile powder, roasted with garlic, sprinkled with lime juice. I’ve eaten grasshoppers ground up in salsas and semi-pulverized in micheladas, their intact legs floating in the refreshing mix of beer, lime juice, and hot sauce. If you’ve ever been served chile-dusted orange slices along with a shot of mezcal—surprise! That chile powder was actually ground up grasshoppers.
By now you’ve probably heard that entomophagy—insect eating—is in our dietary future, or at least should be. Put aside the yuck factor; insects are packed with protein, much less damaging to the environment than other livestock, and can even be killed humanely by popping them in the freezer. It’s all so crazy it just might work; the United Nations published a whole book in 2013 promoting edible insects as a solution to global food insecurity. With Earth looking down the barrel of a population of 9 billion humans, all of them hungry for protein, it makes sense to cultivate animals with 80 percent-edible bodies (crickets) instead of 40 percent (beef), and that don’t require 10 pounds of feed to get two pounds of meat (pigs). In theory.
Lizzie Wade is a science writer in Mexico City.
In Mexico, that’s more than just an idea. With its longstanding tradition of eating grasshoppers—chapulines in Spanish—Mexico would seem perfectly poised to enter the coming age of entomophagy. (Ant eggs—escamoles—are another popular dish.) But there’s one problem: chapulines are expensive. They cost more than pork, or chicken, and sometimes as much as beef or shrimp. Far from being a distasteful last resort for people who don’t have the money for meat (think Snowpiercer), chapulines are an in-demand product more people wish they could afford. The problem isn’t that bugs are rare, obviously. A recent study led by René Cerritos, a biologist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, estimated that 350,000 tons of chapulines live on Mexican crops every year. But harvesting them is disorganized, often illicit, and just plain difficult. Only a few hundred tons of chapulines are collected for food annually, and from only a couple of regions in Mexico. Chapulines can be quite affordable if you manage to buy them close to where they are harvested, Cerritos says. But once middlemen get involved and the grasshoppers get shipped around the country, the price can as much as triple.
Some chapulín operations maintain their own fields of alfafa—the bug’s favorite food. But others fly completely under the radar, the catchers trespassing on whatever farms they can find. Chapulines are agricultural pests, so you’d think farmers would be happy to get rid of them. But the clandestine hunts can damage crops and pack down the earth in carefully managed fields, breeding ill will between famers and chapulín catchers instead of cooperation. In Oaxaca, for example, chapulín catchers gather before dawn on a farm—often without the farmer’s knowledge or permission—and run up and down the rows of crops, plucking chapulines from the plants one at a time. “That’s not an effective way to catch your lunch, let alone make an affordable product,” says Gabe Mott, co-founder of the company Aspire, which is working to develop insect culinary products in Mexico, Ghana, and the US. Just like the UN, Aspire thinks entomophagy can help address hunger and poor nutrition around the world; in 2013 the company won the Hult Prize, $1 million in start-up money to social entrepreneurship projects. But before Aspire or any other company can turn these bugs into a feature, edible insects are going to have to get cheaper.
The chapulín industry, such as it is, is also plagued (heh) by a lack of transparency that’s shocking for a food product. Even Mott, who has made chapulines his life for the past two years, has never been able to follow a single grasshopper from field to market to plate. After catchers pluck them from plants (and often roast them), the grasshoppers disappear into unregulated, un-inspected storage facilities before emerging in markets all over the country, sometimes nearly a year later and always with a steep price increase. Worse, Mott says, “I don’t know what’s on a chapulín if I’m eating it.” The few dedicated chapulín farms may eschew pesticides, but plenty of other farms from which the grasshoppers are harvested use them liberally. Are pesticide-drenched chapulines unhealthy? Do they taste worse? No one knows, and there’s no way to tell the difference when you’re buying them.
By introducing even the simplest of modern agricultural techniques—and helping independent chapulín farmers learn to apply them, too—Mott says Aspire can lower the price and raise the quality of chapulines all over Mexico. The company is currently getting its first commercial chapulín farm up and running in Oaxaca, raising grasshoppers indoors to control temperature and humidity and feeding them a dedicated diet. “Think chicken farming. Well, not the horrible, evil factory chicken farming, but the more humane side,” says Mott, who is a vegetarian but eats insects for work. When harvest time comes, workers put the mature chapulines in a freezer, which causes their metabolisms to slow down almost like they were hibernating. “It is a way to put grasshoppers to sleep without stressing them,” says Mott. “And then they never wake up.” (Chapulines caught in the fields, on the other hand, most often get boiled to death or left to asphyxiate in plastic bags.)
Cerritos, though, is skeptical of Aspire’s model; in Mexico, the abundance of chapulines is “so immense that it’s not necessary to cultivate them,” he says, especially in indoor farms that spend money on air conditioning and food for the grasshoppers. But Mott says his kind of farms can scale up or down, and that Aspire is also providing instructions for building small, DIY chapulín farms so that people in isolated villages can grow their own grasshoppers in a controlled environment.
Even if Aspire’s farms become the new standard in chapulín husbandry, another obstacle stands between grasshoppers and your tummy. It takes a full year for chapulín to grow from egg to maturity. Your standard agribusiness chicken takes about 21 days of egg incubation and six weeks to grow to market weight. Reducing the time a chapulín takes to grow would reduce the costs of raising it, savings that could be passed on to the consumer. In addition to its farm, Aspire has opened a smaller research facility in Oaxaca where it can conduct breeding experiments designed to drive down the time between birth and harvest. Although Mott declined to share specific methods with me on the grounds that Aspire is a for-profit company, he is “confident that we’re going to get the lifecycle down to something considerably more viable than the natural number.”
Eventually, Aspire hopes to add processed chapulines to snack food products to increase their nutritional value, in addition to selling the roasted grasshoppers in markets the traditional way. The company is also looking into the possibility of importing its chapulines to the U.S. Already, “there seems to be quite a significant cross-border trade of smuggled chapulines,” most of which probably end up in Mexican restaurants, Mott says. But since Aspire can document every step of its chapulín growing and harvesting process, it might have an easier time making the grasshoppers a legitimate import. If mezcal can show up on the menus of high-end craft cocktail bars, maybe authentic, organic chapulines can, too. And from there it’s just a short hop to the protein aisles at Costco.
Grasshoppers are herbivorous insects of the suborder Caelifera in the order Orthoptera. To distinguish them from bush crickets or katydids, they are sometimes referred to as short-horned grasshoppers. Species that change colour and behaviour at high population densities are called locusts.
A Grasshopper is an amazing insect that can leap 20 times the length of its own body. If you or I could do that, we would be able to jump almost 40 yards!
A Grasshopper does not actually ‘jump’. What they do is use their legs as a catapult. Grasshoppers can both jump and fly and they can reach a speed of 8 miles per hour when flying. There are about 18,000 different species of grasshoppers.
Grasshoppers are medium to large insects. Adult length is 1 to 7 centimetres, depending on the species. Like their relatives the ‘katydids’ and ‘crickets’, they have chewing mouthparts, two pairs of wings, one narrow and tough, the other wide and flexible, and long hind legs for jumping. They are different from these groups in having short antennae that do not reach very far back on their bodies.
Grasshoppers usually have large eyes, and are coloured to blend into their environment, usually a combination of brown, grey or green. In some species the males have bright colours on their wings that they use to attract females. A few species eat toxic plants, and keep the toxins in their bodies for protection. They are brightly coloured to warn predators that they taste bad.
Female grasshoppers are larger than the males and have sharp points at the end of their abdomen that are there to help them lay eggs underground. Male grasshoppers sometimes have special structures on their wings that they rub their hind legs on or rub together to make sounds.
Grasshoppers can be found almost everywhere in the world, except for the colder regions near the North and South poles.
Types of Grasshopper
There are two main groups of grasshoppers:
(1) long-horned grasshoppers
(2) short-horned grasshoppers
Grasshoppers are divided according to the length of their antennae (feelers), which are also called horns. Short-horned grasshoppers are usually called ‘locusts’.
Grasshopper Habitat and Grasshopper Diet
Grasshoppers live in fields, meadows and just about anywhere they can find generous amounts of food to eat. A grasshopper has a hard shell and a full grown grasshopper is about one and a half inches, being so small you would not think they would eat much – but you would be so wrong – they eat lots and lots – an average grasshopper can eat 16 time its own weight.
The grasshoppers favourite foods are grasses, leaves and cereal crops. One particular grasshopper – the Shorthorn grasshopper only eats plants, but it can go berserk and eat every plant in sight – makes you wander where they put it all.
Grasshoppers are most active during the day, but also feed at night. They do not have nests or territories and some species go on long migrations to find new supplies of food. Most species are solitary and only come together to mate, but the migratory species sometimes gather in huge groups of millions or even billions of individuals.
When a grasshopper is picked up, they ‘spit’ a brown liquid which is known as ‘tobacco juice’. Some scientists believe that this liquid may protect grasshoppers from attacks by insects such as ants and other predators – they ‘spit’ the liquid at them then catapult up and fly off quickly.
Grasshoppers also try to escape from their enemies hiding in the grass or among leaves. If you have ever tried to catch grasshoppers in a field, you know how quickly they can disappear by dropping down into the tall grass.
The grasshoppers greatest enemies include various kinds of flies that lay their eggs in or near grasshopper eggs. After the fly eggs hatch, the newborn flies eat the grasshopper eggs. Some flies will even lay their eggs on the grasshoppers body, even while the grasshopper is flying. The newborn flies then eat the grasshopper. Other enemies of grasshoppers include beetles, birds, mice, snakes and spiders.
A grasshopper. Credit:
Grasshoppers eat a variety of green plants including clover, wheat, corn, rye, barley, cotton, oats, alfalfa, weeds, and grasses. They are also known to eat flowers and plant stems and when food becomes scarce they can eat moss, fungi, insects, and animal feces.
Like many other creatures big and small, the grasshopper is capable of eating a variety of things based on where it is and its particular dietary requirement. Like other insects, its options are not as diverse as something like a human, but they do play an important role in the world.
Understanding grasshoppers and their diets is an important endeavor because of how connected they are to humans and our different industries. This is especially important for the agricultural industry and any food-related facets of human life.
Grasshoppers already have a close relationship with humans because they are apart of our history as they appear in art, literature, and religion. One of the big signs of doom in the bible is a swarm of locusts that wreaks havoc.
On the contrast to such a dark and gloomy image, grasshoppers also produce music that we have always found to be interesting and a divergence from the harshness of nature. These songs vary from species to species and come from rubbing pegs on their hind legs together or rubbing their wings together.
Their more dark relationship with humans, as a harbinger of doom, probably comes from their diet and how it can become out of control to wreak havoc on human societies.
Table Of Contents hide
What Are Grasshoppers?
Grasshoppers are insects belonging to the suborder Caelifera, which is within the order Orthoptera that includes things like crickets. There are 18,000 kinds of grasshopper species throughout the world.
Grasshoppers are considered to be one of the oldest (and living) groups of insects considered chewing herbivores, although not all grasshoppers are herbivores. They are thought to have originated some 250 million years ago.
These insects can be found throughout the world except for areas of extreme cold. They thrive mostly in areas of vegetation, like meadows, fields, and places with lots of grass.
Grasshoppers are considered to be hemimetabolous, which means that they hatch from an egg into a juvenile form called a nymph. They then undergo a series of 5 molting until they reach their adult form. Unlike bees or flies, grasshoppers do not undergo a complete metamorphosis where the stages of development are distinctly different from each other (caterpillar vs. butterfly).
Instead, when grasshoppers molt from nymph to adult, they are basically increasing in size with some characteristic changes that include wing development.
Starting out as a nymph, the smallest form, the grasshopper will undergo 5 moltings to get to its full adult stage with all parts being developed. Image licensed under CC0. Credit: Wikipedia
Given the number of existing species of grasshoppers, there is a large range of diversity within the species. Their coloring can range from greens and olive to browns. Some may have marks of yellow or red. This diversity extends into their sizes as well as some can be as large as 4 inches.
This diversity also extends into its diet.
Grasshoppers are mostly herbivores, which explains why they live in areas filled with plant life. Most herbivorous insects consume a particular species or a few species of plants as part of their diet. This specificity allows them to avoid competition but limits their access to resources.
Grasshoppers, on the other hand, are mostly generalists that feed on a large range of plants across different species, genera, and families. It has been found that when their diet is composed of a mixture of plants, Grasshoppers are healthier and reproduce more often.
Generalist grasshoppers do not all behave in the same way when it comes to acquiring food. For instance, both the green bird grasshopper and the gray bird grasshopper eat a single type of plant fully before moving onto the next. This is to avoid increased encounters with other insects or animals that could be competition or a predator.
In contrast to both bird grasshopper species, the rainbow grasshopper constantly eats a variety of plants as it shifts from one to another before finishing the plant. It moves from one plant to another without regard for completely eating the plants. This is one of the reasons why a bunch of plants may look half eaten with bite marks.
While most grasshoppers are generalist plant eaters, not all of them are generalists. There are some species of grasshoppers that only eat a single plant species, like most insects. The creosote bush grasshopper, as its name suggests, only eats the creosote bush, which can be found in the deserts of North America as well as parts of Central America.
An 11,700-year-old creosote bush ring in the Mojave Desert. This is the only diet of the creosote bush grasshopper. Image licensed under CC0. Credit:Wikipedia
Another exception to the generalist grasshopper herbivore is the plains lubber grasshopper. This is a large and flightless grasshopper that can be found among desert shrubs. It is a generalist grasshopper, however, it exhibits cannibal behaviors. It has been found to be a predator that goes after other grasshoppers as well as insects, usually by jumping on them.
In situations of food scarcity, it is not uncommon to find some grasshoppers engaging in carnivorous behaviors as grasshoppers in these situations have been found eating animal feces, rotting meat, moss, and other insects.
Grasshoppers And Humans
The grasshopper’s diet can be a detriment to humans. While most grasshoppers are solitary, there are instances when they can congregate together in one location. The spur-throated grasshopper is one such species that gather in groups and travel together.
When these groups are formed, they become locust swarms that can have up to millions of individuals. This means that there are millions of mouths to feed, and being generalist plant eaters, they have lots of options as to what they can eat.
The consequence of this is that these swarms consume the plants in orchards and farms that are in their path. This can lead to major drops in food supplies, leading to things like famine.
In the United States, these swarms can cause up to $1.5 billion in damages as they consume whatever is in their path. Understanding grashoppers becomes much more than just a need of science as it becomes a crucial part of ensuring the stability of food sources around the world.
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Grasshoppers are pretty selective in their feeding behavior. The hardness of a leaf, its size or even the predation can change the grasshopper’s feeding behavior. They will less likely forage for food. Grasshoppers spend as little energy as they possibly can. The grasshopper’s diet consists of grasses, broadleaf weeds, herbs, broadleaf plants, and pokeweed plants.
Grasshoppers will rely on olfactory cues as well as sight to find food sources. They may not eat plants straightaway. Grasshoppers are most likely to test the plant first. Their bite usually relies on inputs from many sensillae which occur at their antennal tip or labial pulp.
Studies indicate that the grasshoppers may spend hours whilst feeding on the same plant if they are satisfied with their nutrient quality. But how long does the grasshopper feed on a specific plant doesn’t always depend on one factor. It also depends on the physical properties of the host plant i.e. if the plant is rich in water; if it is hard or what types of chemicals does it seem to possess.
What Do Lubber Grasshoppers Eat? – Lubber Grasshopper Diet
The lubber grasshopper (Romalea microptera) is a generalist feeder. It lives in the southeastern United States. The grasshopper appears to rely on a wide variety of plants. Lubber grasshoppers will consume as many as 104 plants which belong to the 38 families.
They will like to feed on ornamental plants, vegetables, and foliage of citrus. Lubber grasshoppers prefer to live in oak woods, desert grasslands, and foliage of perennial shrubs. They are thought to eat a wide variety of plants and flowers such as weeds, cotton plants, field edges, and citrus leaves.
Photo by Shamim Tirmizi — National Geographic Your Shot
What Plants Do Grasshoppers Eat?
Can you guess what kind of plants do grasshoppers eat? Grasshoppers feed on needle grasses, thorny grasses, Pontederia cordata, Phytolaca americana; tread-softly, arrowhead, Sagittaria spp., and Pontederia cordata; lizard’s tail.
They will also eat cowpeas, corn, peach, figs, citrus, and peanuts. But polygynous grasshoppers do not seem to feed on all plants equally likely. That is to say that they will prefer one over the other.
Lubbers also consume other plants including cabbage, kale, beans, pea, eggplants, pepper, fennel, tomato, okra, celery, and lettuce. Grasshoppers supplement their diet with Amazon lily and flowers that belong to the family Amaryllidaceae as well as defoliate amaryllis.
Favorite among the weeds are Florrida beggarweed, Richardia scabra, Old-world diamond-flower, Cnidoscolus stimulosus, Poinsettia cyathophora, Florida pusley, smooth crabgrass, Digitaria ischaemum, Phyllanthus urinaria, painted leaf, Desmodium tortuosum, Oldenlandia corymbosa, chamber bitter, and tread softly.
Watson JR. 1941. Migrations and food preferences of the lubberly locust. Florida Entomologist 24: 40-42.
Hewitt George United States. Agricultural; Review of forage losses caused by rangeland grasshoppers. Dept. of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service : for sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1977 – Forage plants
Stop Grasshoppers in Your Garden
Common throughout much of North America, grasshoppers are familiar insects with big appetites. They jump from plant to plant using powerful back legs and glide with wings.
You might see grasshoppers in shades of green, gold, or brown. They chew ragged-looking holes in plant leaves (and may also eat window screens). Unfortunately, they’re one of the toughest insects to fight off.
Attract beneficial insects: Plant flowers, such as marigolds, calendula, sunflower, daisy, alyssum, or dill nearby to attract beneficial insects. A few good bugs, such as robber flies, attack grasshoppers.
Grasshopper diseases: There’s a grasshopper disease called Nosema locustae that can help. It can be slow to kill the pests, however, and only affects young grasshoppers. Not all grasshopper species are susceptible to the disease, either. To be effective, it needs to be used in areas where grasshoppers lay their eggs.
Insecticides: A number of insecticides also effectively kill grasshoppers. Look for products containing carbaryl or permethrin. Insecticides don’t usually offer complete control because grasshoppers travel so much that the products you use may not kill the insects until after they’ve left your garden and gone to someone else’s. Insecticides also won’t keep new grasshoppers from coming into your garden.
Note: In some years, the weather is the best control for grasshoppers. Cool, wet weather in early summer causes young grasshoppers to starve to death.
SO MANY GRASSHOPPERS! ^
There are many species of grasshoppers around the world. Over twenty thousand have been identified and over one thousand exist in the United States alone. Grasshoppers are strong jumpers and they can fly. Though they don’t bite intentionally, they have been known to “chew” a person or two during migration or prolonged contact.
Grasshoppers are strong insects with a body well protected and sight which enables them to identify predators from afar. Closely related to crickets, these ferocious and crop damaging pests know how to “sing” and “chirp”.
This article will detail some basic biology of grasshoppers, list why they are a pest and then offer solutions on how to keep them away from your gardens and plants.
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Grasshoppers are known around the world. They are great jumpers and most species can fly as well. They have a tough outer-skin which affords them great protection. Pygmy grasshoppers are the least important. They are small with thin bodies which has a dorsal shield completely protecting it. Though they can do damage, Pygmy grasshoppers are thought to have the lease amount of impact.
Longhorned grasshoppers are much larger and have antennae which extends beyond the end of their body when folded back. Katydids, Cone-headed Grasshoppers and Meadow Grasshoppers are all members of this family. Long horned grasshoppers do a lot of damage every year; the Mormon Grasshopper was a meadow grasshopper which was responsible for so much damage which early settlers endured while farming Utah.
The shorthorned grasshopper is by far the most common of all species and has short antennae. This species includes the Spur-throated grasshopper which is able to molt and migrate when local food supplies are not sufficient. These are the true “locusts” which will leave in late summer/early fall in search of food. They will fly miles and miles when local food is scarce or if they reproduced too much for local conditions to support. Slant faced crickets and Band-Winged grasshoppers are also in the shorthorned species.
Grasshoppers vary in color. This will depend largely on local environments. Dry arid environments tend to produce more species which are tan to brown in color. Moist, succulent terrain will have more green grasshoppers. However, many species will start a season green and turn brown as the summer lags on into fall.
Most grasshoppers are great songsters. Males will use sound during courtship and so distinctive is their voice that many people are able to identify species by their song! Shorthorned species are only able to sing by rubbing various body parts together so they are really only able to “chirp”. However, both females and males will use sound throughout the year. It is believed their song is used to communicate food locations, mating seasons and the general state of local populations.
Grasshoppers have well developed ears which enable their sound to find the right target from great distances. It is clear their use of sound keeps them close together which is essential for species development and survival.
Most grasshoppers will die by winter and start from eggs the following year. Pygmy grasshoppers are one of the only species which overwinters and emerges as adults in the spring. What little damage they do is mostly noted at the beginning of the growing season. Most other species will emerge as nymphs in the spring looking like adults but lacking the ability to fly. As they molt through the summer they will reach adulthood late in the season.
Once they mate, females will use their ovipositors to lay eggs in plants or the ground, depending on the species. This egg laying process causes great damage to plants. Eggs will then lie dormant through the winter and young will emerge at the beginning of the new growing season the following year.
GRASSHOPPERS EAT EVERYTHING!
Grasshoppers are worst known for the damage they do while eating. They have strong chewing mouth parts along with ferocious appetites.
Grasshoppers have been known to clear acres of crops, wild terrain and urban landscaping. At times they appear to eat whatever is in their path. This is particularly true when short horned species change over to locusts and migrate. Generally caused by overpopulation or lack of food, locusts are strong flyers and capable of causing uncontrollable damage.
There is a certain feeling of helplessness many farmers have felt when they see the great bands of locusts descending upon their crops. Locusts act quickly and will sometimes eat entire plants; other times they ravish randomly. Small local populations are easy to control; large migrating locusts are difficult to stop but preventative steps can be taken to minimize loss.
HOW TO CONTROL GRASSHOPPERS
The key to successful grasshopper control is the timing of treatments. The timing of your treatments is dependent on which type of grasshopper problem you are experiencing.
If you are an avid gardener which experiences grasshopper damage and activity every year, you most likely have a local population which needs to be eliminated. This can be done by applying granules to your turf in the spring and some liquid during the season. The granules will help control developing young; the liquid will kill off active adults.
If you are in a region which generally has very little activity but migrating locusts typically find their way to your property from time to time, immediate action will be needed to minimize damage and followup treatments recommended to prevent population establishments. This can be handled with liquids only which will quickly kill and control the active numbers but also repel new ones off treated surfaces.
LAWN GRANULES FOR LOCAL GRASSHOPPERS
Throughout the spring, summer and fall, apply MAXXTHOR SG to your turf for season long prevention of nesting grasshoppers. These slow releasing granules will kill off young nymph grasshoppers as they emerge from eggs. Gardeners and property owners who have had an ongoing problem with grasshoppers need to make special note; by treating early in the season you will successfully break the cycle which is having a negative impact on your plants and landscape.
Maxxthor is easy to apply and can be spread with a HAND SPREADER to get proper distribution and coverage. If you are in a dry spell or generally arid part of the country, water them in following application. The granules will release into the ground providing control of many turf pests which emerge in the spring.
Use 6 lb’s for every 5,000 sq/ft of grass, mulch or flower gardens. Retreat every 60 days for prevention; every 30 days when infested.
Any decent fertilizer spreader can be used to make the application; just make sure it’s uniform and complete.
As the spring turns to summer, watch local grasshopper activity. If you treated in the spring, you should see a decrease in seasonal activity. The granules should have prevented most of the emerging nymphs to die off. If you begin to notice increasing populations by June or July, its possible new grasshoppers are emerging and developing from other places besides your turf; some species lay their eggs on plants, above ground, and spraying the adults during the summer and fall is the only way to break the cycle. Make sure to keep abreast of regional grasshopper populations. If your local media and farm reports are talking about migrating locusts, get ready to do liquid treating.
BEST GRASSHOPPER SPRAY
If you have a history of grasshoppers arriving during the summer, spraying your plants before they arrive should head off most of the damage. Grasshoppers may like to eat but they don’t like the taste of certain chemicals. Treat ahead of their arrival with MAXXTHOR EC. Expect to see some land on treated plants but they will die in 1-2 if they don’t leave.
If treating a small area, you can use a PUMP SPRAYER to spray. Add .25 oz of Maxxthor per gallon of water and use this mixture to cover up to 1,000 sq/ft of turf, plants, shrubs or trees. Treat as needed when active; this might be once a week during a severe season.
If you have a yard 5,000 sq/ft or more to treat, use a HOSE END SPRAYER. With our unit, you only need to add 1 oz of Maxxthor to the sprayer and then fill the sprayer to the 5 gallon line with water. Next, hook it to your garden hose and as you spray, the water being pumped out will suck out the mixture from the sprayer and deliver the prescribed dose to your plants.
Treatments may only be needed every week or two but if you are experiencing a massive onslaught of grasshoppers, don’t be afraid to treat every few days until the initial wave subsides. Once activity slows, expect to find some damage but most importantly, be sure there are none around able to lay eggs and get established.
GARDEN SAFE GRASSHOPPER SPRAY
For a fruit or vegetable garden with grasshoppers, we have two products that can be safely applied to all plants yielding an edible crop. The first is CYONARA RTS. Labeled for use on fruit and vegetable bearing plants, Cyonara is odorless, covers a large area and is highly active on grasshoppers.
One quart will cover up to 1/2 acre and can be applied as needed. Again, expect to treat 1-2 a week until the initial surge is suppressed. After that, once a month is god schedule to follow until the local population is near gone.
ORGANIC SPRAY FOR GRASSHOPPERS
Lastly, we have one organic concentrate strong enough to kill grasshoppers. It actually works well on tough, hard shelled insects. Known as MULTIPURPOSE INSECT KILLER, its approved for organic gardening and has just one day to harvest when sprayed on fruit or vegetable plants.
Mix 6 oz per gallon of water and use the mixture for up to 500 sq/ft of garden plant foliage. Treat as needed during the growing season and be sure to spray after dinner, just before dusk. One quart of concentrate will make up to 5 gallons of mixed solution and cover up to 3,000 sq/ft.
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If your vegetable garden beds are surrounded by grass, your crops may get visitors: grasshoppers. If grasshoppers make their way to your veggies, you’ll begin to notice holes in your crops’ leaves and partially eaten produce. If very large numbers are present, you may lose your entire harvest to grasshoppers.
How can you protect your crops from these insects of mass destruction? Luckily there are organic pest control methods to help protect your crops, especially those vegetables grasshoppers are most fond of: lettuce, carrots, beans, sweet corn, and onions. You need not focus your grasshopper control efforts as much on squash, peas, and tomatoes.
Introduce or encourage predators
One way to control grasshopper numbers is by making them food for others. In particular, chickens, turkeys, guinea hens, and ducks love to eat grasshoppers. If you don’t have or want these types of animals, use birdseed to lure larks, bluebirds, or kestrels to the area of infestation so they can help you reduce the grasshopper population. Don’t forget that grasshoppers are perfect toys for roaming cats.
Tilling your soil in autumn may help expose grasshopper eggs. Till again in the spring for weed prevention since grasshoppers love to hide in weeds. You can also introduce living fungi spores of nosema locustae to infect and kill some types of grasshoppers. Further, having biologically active soil encourages the growth of organisms and microorganisms that cause diseases in grasshoppers.
Protect your plants
Grasshoppers typically don’t bother with physical barriers. Aluminum window screening or fabric may protect your plants, although some species have actually been known to chew through fabric.
Hot pepper wax
Sold as a liquid spray, insects are supposedly repelled by the taste of its main ingredient, cayenne pepper, and will not eat plant leaves. Hot pepper wax works on soft bodied insects.
This product from Amazon claims to be rainproof for only $15, and a majority of customers using it for its intended purpose seem satisfied.
Neem acts in two ways. Its main function is to act as a hormone that causes infected insects to forget to eat. Eventually the insect will die of starvation. So, a vegetable crop leaf covered in Neem oil may still show some damage, but insects that ingest Neem will not be back for more than a few helpings. Neem may also work as simply as a scent repellent.
Only available in certain states, Nolo Bait is an organic spore that kills both mormon crickets and grasshoppers, and will pass from grasshopper to grasshopper once they are infected.
Provide an attractive habitat
Since grasshoppers love to hide in tall weeds and grasses, consider providing an area of untamed grass in proximity to your garden to attract grasshoppers. This shelter may provide enough benefit for them to move from your tasty treats. If your grasshoppers need encouragement, design a temporary path for their migration.
Carbaryl dust (not organic!)
If you are not wedded to organic pest control, try carbaryl dust or spray. Although it is a potent grasshopper killer, it can be cost inhibitive if used on large gardens or lawns. An average 1000 square foot lawn will need five pounds of carbaryl dust at nearly $20 each. This method is only recommended for the desperate!
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of Aleksey Gnilenkov
Ask a Specialist: Controlling Grasshoppers in the Yard and Garden
Large numbers of immature grasshoppers have been spotted in Utah this spring. The best time to control grasshoppers is when they are young, before they have wings and can fly away from insecticide treatments. For best results, organize your neighborhood or local farming/ranching community to work together to treat larger tracts of land. Treating wide areas is a key to success.
In the late summer and fall, adult female grasshoppers lay their eggs in pods in undisturbed soil such as open fields, roadsides, weedy areas, rangelands and boundaries between open space and residential lots. The eggs hatch the following spring and immature grasshoppers, called nymphs, crawl and hop to find green plants to eat. As temperatures warm, soil moisture declines and unmanaged plants dry out. Grasshopper nymphs then move into home yards, gardens and agricultural fields to seek green forage. The best time to treat them is in the early summer as nymphs move from open to cultivated land and before they develop into winged adults. Consider this information for control:
There are three types of insecticide formulations to treat grasshoppers: baits, dusts and sprays.
Baits are a mixture of an attractive food source, such as wheat bran, with an insecticide. Common baits contain carbaryl, a carbamate insecticide, or spores of Nosema locustae, a natural grasshopper pathogen. Baits should be spread evenly throughout the habitat and must be reapplied weekly and immediately after rain or irrigation. Baits are selective in that they only kill grasshoppers and other foraging insects (N. locustae will only kill grasshoppers).
Dusts have short residuals and must be reapplied weekly and after rain or irrigation. Both baits and dusts are easy to apply, but moderately expensive. There are numerous insecticide sprays that work against grasshoppers, including malathion, carbaryl, permethrin and bifenthrin. An insect growth regulator, diflubenzuron (Dimilin), is available for commercial-scale applications.
Sprays are less expensive than baits and dusts, but require a sprayer suitable to the scale of application. Sprays will kill on contact or when grasshoppers eat the treated foliage. Check all product labels for allowed application sites. For example, some insecticides can be applied to ornamental but not edible plants.
Direct column topics to: Julene Reese, Utah State University Extension writer, Logan, Utah, 84322-4900; 435-797-0810; [email protected] By: Diane Alston, Utah State University Extension entomologist, 435-797-2516, [email protected]