So... What are Grasshoppers?
Adult grasshoppers may be green, yellow or brown and up to 2" in length. The long, strong hind legs of an adult grasshopper are probably the most recognizable feature and allow the grasshopper to travel distances in search of food.
Reproduction Patterns of Grasshoppers
Eggs are laid in late summer and will survive the winter if left undisturbed. In the mid to late spring, hatching occurs and tiny miniature grasshoppers known as nymphs emerge. The nymphs go through several developmental stages during the next month or two before becoming an adult grasshopper.
Near the end of summer, female adult grasshoppers will lay her eggs - up to 400 eggs when conditions are favorable! These are the eggs that will hatch in the spring.
Both female and male adults will live and feed until the cold of the approaching winter kills them.
Grasshoppers can be found throughout North America in gardens, fields, woodlands, and basically any other area with vegetation. Because they can live and travel to a variety of areas in search of food, they can be difficult to control.
If one area doesn't suit them, they can simply go to another garden or field until they find one they prefer. Even if you get rid of the present population in your garden or field, others may follow in a short while, causing frustrations for gardeners and farmers alike.
Symptoms of Grasshopper Damage
Since adult grasshoppers will feed on a variety of vegetative plants, including grasses and weeds, the symptoms of grasshopper damage can be widespread and diverse.
Their preferences include beans, sweet corn, lettuce and carrots, so when leaves of these plants appear chewed and you notice a grasshopper or two nearby, there is a very good chance that the grasshoppers are the culprits.
They make holes in the tissue of the plant as well as the leaves. You may also notice the grasshoppers' dark droppings on the plant leaves.
Fruits may look as if they are not developing correctly.
Results of a Grasshopper Infestation
In a smaller home garden where there may only be a few grasshoppers, damage may be limited and the plants may be able to survive their nibbling.
In cases of large infestations, particularly in fields or very large gardens, grasshoppers can decimate the area, eating almost everything that is edible.
Severe financial losses can occur when infestations of grasshoppers wipe out crops in a field. They can cause frustration to home gardeners who may not be able to harvest and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
Natural & Organic Controls
Methods for controlling grasshoppers include Diatomaceous Earth and Insecticidal Soap (Potassium Salts of Fatty Acids) & Pyrethrins. Products on the market containing pyrethrins can be used safely if directions on the product are carefully followed.
Diatomaceous Earth (D.E.) is a dust-like product that contains the crushed fossilized remains of diatoms. The dust is ingested by the grasshopper and affects the cuticle of the grasshopper, resulting in its dehydration. The best part about D.E. is that insects cannot develop a resistance to it since there are no chemicals to which they can develop immunity. If the area where the D.E. is applied becomes wet, it will need to be reapplied.
Insecticidal Soap (Potassium Salts of Fatty Acids) & Pyrethrin - combined are the organic equivalent of a one-two knockdown punch. The soap will penetrate their skin enough to weaken and dehydrate the insect and allow the pyrethrin to absorb into the insect and do its job.
Pyrethrin is a powerful nerve agent and will paralyze and kill the insect on contact. Keep in mind this soap is not like dish detergent, it's a base from a blend of natural plant sources and pyrethrin oils and derived from the chrysanthemum flower.
Diatomaceous Earth and Insect Soap & Pyrethrin should be applied as soon as grasshoppers are discovered.
Spray Insect Soap & Pyrethrin as a contact killer. Use in accordance with directions on the product label.
Safer® Brand offers a variety of grasshopper control products to help control and eliminate this garden pest and revive your plants. Please check out our grasshopper control products for more details about how they work and how, when, and where they should be applied.
If you are concerned about a plant or unsure of how it will react to these solutions, test an inconspicuous area and wait 24 hours before applying full coverage. As a general rule, much like watering, do not use any liquid insecticides in the peak of the day or when temperatures exceed 90°F.
Fortunately, grasshoppers have plenty of natural predators. These predators include blister beetles, tiger beetles, yellow jackets, birds, and parasitic flies and parasitic nematodes.
Some natural predators, such as the blister beetle and parasitic flies, feast on grasshopper eggs. Others such as the parasitic nematodes, yellow jackets, and birds attack the adult grasshoppers. You can attract these predators by planting flowers favored by the predators.
In most cases, the predators will come when the climate and temperature are right for their arrival. By planting flowers favored by the predators early in the season, you can draw them to your garden or field as soon as or shortly after the grasshoppers arrive, and thus limit the population of grasshoppers.
Most local greenhouses and garden centers can help you determine the right planting time for the nectar and pollen producing plants to ensure that the pollen and nectar will be available when the predators arrive.
Elimination of weeds, removal of plant debris, and cultivation of the soil may help control an onslaught of grasshoppers.
Eliminating weeds in gardens and fallow fields may help control the grasshoppers since they will not have as much protection from predators, and in the case of empty gardens or fields, they won't have food sources, and therefore, will not stay around.
Remove plant debris and cultivate the soil in the fall to help control grasshoppers. Removing plant debris left over from the harvest and placing the debris in the trash for pick up may help by getting rid of any eggs attached to the debris.
Tilling will destroy the eggs that are overwintering on any remaining plant debris. This will help in a home garden or in the farm fields.
These methods should all be done in the fall, after the eggs have been laid, or in the case of weeding, can be done throughout the season especially in home gardens.