You might have heard about Aesop’s fables, where he illustrated grasshoppers as a carefree animal who lavishly spend their summer without a care and thought of the future.
When it comes to reality, tiny green creatures are responsible for causing havoc on the plants. We can say that Aesop portrays was real that the insect doesn’t think about the future.
Grasshoppers belong to order Orthoptera, the same one from which locusts belong; see the similarity? Well, you will see it soon enough. They are very lethal and hungry creatures. Fatal for the plants in the sense that they can quickly destroy your favourite plants in a short period. They mostly occur in areas where annual rainfall is less than 25 inches. When they mostly eat flowers and vegetables in small quantities, when their population escalates, they will about anything. When in small numbers, they will only add diversity to your garden, but they will destroy your garden and your beloved plants in large numbers.
Where they come from?
Weeds are the first love of a female grasshopper. She lay eggs there, the eggs hatch, and babby grasshoppers called nymphs to come out, but they stay close to the hatching area. When they get to adulthood, then the real hell breaks loose in nearby areas. They start searching for food and,, after finding a green patch, start munching on it. You will mostly find them in a warm and dry climate.
The damage they do to plants.
When nymph reaches its third growth stage, it starts to get more and more hungry. So, they start eating like a maniac. They destroy whole trees and patches of vegetables. When in a huge swarm, they can eat all the leaves of trees and plants nearby. So, the first step one can do to reduce their number. This is the only way to control them and reduce the damage. They are similar to locusts in the damage they can cause to plants.
How to control them?
There are ways to control and prevent grasshoppers from becoming a problem. To stop them, it is necessary to get to know about their lifecycles and understand when they are the most vulnerable and the strongest. One of the solutions is to have best gardening practices interrupt their lifecycle. In this article, I will tell you all the possible ways to control grasshopper infestation effectively.
1.) By using Predators
The introduction of predators means using grasshoppers as a food source. For this purpose, ducks, turkeys, chickens, and guinea pigs are the best animals. If these animals are not available for some reason, you can also bait bluebirds, larks, and kestrels by using birdseed or setting up bird perches. Experts say that at the start of summer, grasshopper-eating birds gather in search of protein-rich food and will come to sit on the nests. From there, they search for movements in the grass and catch any insect they find. These birds are also great for getting grasshopper infestation under control. Also, don’t forget the cats. They love to play with grasshoppers. Among all the species, chickens is the best pest eater. They will also be a great pet and will also provide you with healthy nutritional eggs. You can also consider having a small pond in your yard and invest in some amphibians like toads and frogs. They will be like another line of defence against any kinds of pests and bugs. If you are not interested in having frogs, you have other options like lizards. They prefer to eat grasshoppers as well.
2.) By Tilling the soil
Till the soil and keep it biologically operating throughout the year because it will boost the growth of microorganisms, which will infect grasshoppers. If you till the soil in autumn, it will agitate the females and bring the grasshopper eggs to light. In spring, it will obstruct weed growth where grasshoppers hide usually. For best results, it is recommended to till the soil two times per year. It will prevent grasshoppers from laying eggs in the plants.
3.) By eliminating weeds (safe heaven)
Grasshoppers love weeds as they feed on weeds. Snakeweed is a particular favourite of them, so to prevent a grasshopper rush try abolishing them entirely. It will curtail their feeding hope and let them come out into the lawn from vegetable patches and flowerbeds. You can also use weed killers to eliminate weeds. Research at the University of Maryland reported that vinegar which contains acetic acid, is the ultimate weed killer. Another natural compound is known to be effective in killing weeds is Sodium borate which is present in Borax. Borax is a natural killer of weed, but one thing to keep in mind about it is its toxicity which can impact your pets.
4.) By using neem oil
Scientists have done some research regarding the use of neem oil in pest management. They found that the neem extract contains a chemical called Azadirachtin which reduced the eating habit by messing with the grasshoppers’ hormones. The research resulted in a 50% reduction in insect population in just eight days. Meaning a leaf covered in the neem oil can do some severe harm to the insects. You can also make your pesticide at home by combining two teaspoons of neem oil, one teaspoon of a liquid dishwasher, and one litre of water. Put the cocktail in a spray bottle and apply it to the area where grasshoppers have attacked. For the maximum results, spray the concoction every week. There are some products available online, like Verdana USDA Organic Cold Pressed Neem Oil is available at Amazon.
5.) By using Fungus
A fungus called Nosema locustae is the organic solution to kill grasshoppers. A research study was done to find out that this Fungus is one of the natural enemies of grasshoppers. The Fungus is usually supplied as a mixture with the grains in the soil. When the grasshoppers feed on it, it directly attacks their digestive system making it passive and causing the insect to stop eating altogether. This situation leads to starvation and the death of the insect. This disease of grasshoppers is also transmittable. There is a product that happens to be available commercially called Nolo bait which contains this Fungus. It is used as bait and usually applied at the infested yard boundary where long grass present or to the lawn and flowerbeds.
This bait is proved to be nontoxic to pets and other animals but lethal to grasshoppers. Another fungus used to get rid of grasshoppers is Beauveria bassiana. A soil fungus and deadly to the grasshoppers. Research indicates that After ingesting it, there is a considerable difference in eating behaviour and other insects’ activities leading to their death. The disease also spread from one grasshopper to another, causing a massive killing effect on the whole insect population. To use at your plants, always follow the manual given with the product.
6.) By using Floating Row covers (FRC)
Utah State University conducted a research study indicating that to control grasshopper infestation organically, the Floating Row Covers are among the best bets. For delicate herbs and vegetables, it is safer to cover them with the cover. The University of Maryland has defined the floating row covers that they are lightweight, white, made up of a plant fabric or from polypropylene or polyester, and directly floats above the plants. The material looks like an interfacing cloth used in sewing. It protects the plant from a pest attack. While using it, you should make sure it doesn’t touch the plant’s top and always open the cover for pollinators to scatter plant seeds. Here is YBB Bug Insect Garden Barrier Netting Plant Cover available at Amazon, ready to be bought.
7.) By using Chemical compounds
The best method to remove or eliminate a massive infestation is to use chemical processes. A review published by the University of Nebraska stated that Carbaryl’s chemical is the most effective bait to be constructed so far. It is a dry mixture that can be spread by hand in the soil of the infested area. It should be spread on the surface so that grasshoppers can easily see it and eat it. Ensure the reapplication of the bait after rain or dew. Ecroban is another eco-friendly insect killer that can be used to get rid of grasshoppers. It contains carbaryl in a unique blend and is also not toxic to birds and pets.
8.) By using garlic and pepper spray
Grasshoppers do not fancy tasting garlic, so you can use it in spray form on your plants to keep them away. You can use commercial spray available like Garlic Barrier 32 oz Insect Repellent White available on Amazon or you can make one on your own. A hot pepper spray can also be used to deter insects. Moreover, you can also use both sprays in a mixture. It will be the most natural and active method. The recipe for the mixture is that take four garlic cloves and four peppers, and 6 cups of water. Mix these ingredients and simmer them for 20 minutes. Leave the mixture for the night. Take a highly concentrated version and dilute it, and with the help of a spray bottle, spray it on the plants. Especially after rain reapply the mixture.
9.) By using Diatomaceous Spray
This spray is made up of Diatomaceous earth which is the shells of petrified algae. It is used as a famous additive for gardens for many reasons, but the most important reason is that it helps in repelling insects, especially grasshoppers. When it comes to the insect, it blemishes the exoskeleton and dehydrates the insect instantly, causing them to die. It is primarily nontoxic for humans but makes sure to cover eyes and mouth before spraying it on the plants. You can either use it as a powder to dust on plants like this one product at Amazon HARRIS Diatomaceous Earth or as a spray by mixing it with water.
10.) By using Kaolin clay
Kaolin clay is the latest kind of prevention against grasshopper infestation. It is also known as the china clay and is made up of porcelain. It is available in powder form. After mixing with soap and water, it is sprayed to form a protective covering on leaves surfaces, thus repelling grasshoppers or other insects. People mostly don’t like it because it’s kind of makes the garden look ugly. Here is one of the products available at Amazon.
11.) By using Pesticidal Soaps
Some people do consider the use of pesticide soap because it can affect instantly. The soaps most contain fatty acids and potassium salts. Both these ingredients behave like a punch when it comes to insect control. They dissolve with the exoskeleton and enter into the insect skin and dehydrate the body from inside out. There is another ingredient found in such soaps called Pyrethrin, which is dangerous for insects. It helps in disintegrating the cells of the insect from inside. Permethrins is another compound of such soaps that are certified organically and is used to control grasshoppers. They are available in organic form as produced by chrysanthemum species, and some are synthetically made. It would be best to take care when spraying the plant because these chemicals can also harm the plants, causing yellowing or browning of leaves. However, many of the soaps are made to be non-phytotoxic. To avoid damaging the plant, do not spray it on sensitive ones and newly grown plants.
12.) By growing flowers and vegetables that grasshoppers hate
Mixing such flowers and vegetables with your plants that grasshoppers do not like to eat will keep them at bay. Such flowers include Forsythia, sage, salvia, Juniper, Jasmine, Artemisia, Lantana, Crepe Myrtle, Verbena, Moss rose, and Lilac. Vegetables that grasshoppers hate to munch on are tomatoes, squash, and peas.
Grasshoppers don’t harm humans even humans eat them in certain areas. Grasshoppers are only a threat when they attack and start living in and eating from the plant. But now we have all the best possible chemical and natural solutions to control their population if they attack the plants. There is one thing to keep in mind that chemical control might be effective for the moment, but it is not a long-term solution. It may even escalate the grasshopper problem, so natural ways are much effective in this regard. With the climate changing and increasing global warming, it is more suitable to turn towards natural and organic solutions to control insect infestation.