Grasshoppers, which are related to locusts, can be very destructive. In the Locustidae family, they can appear for a couple of years in a row and devastate crops and gardens and then disappear for many years before returning again to cause more mayhem and destruction.
Not all the grasshopper species are garden pests; there are thousands; but many of them are a huge problem for gardeners. Grasshoppers generally lay their eggs in dry soil that has been left undisturbed in early autumn. The nymphs emerge in spring to eat tender young plants.
Their favorite foods are grasses, leaves and cereal crops.
Grasshoppers molt several times over the next 60 days before becoming fully grown with functional wings. The best time to control them is when they are in their nymph stage, early on in the season.
Following are some methods of control:
- A healthy soil encourages microscopic predators that cause diseases to grasshoppers. Read how to feed your soil here.
- Apply Semaspore grasshopper bait early in the year to kill young grasshoppers.
- Keep weeds under control early in the season to prevent attracting grasshoppers to your yard.
- Encourage predators to your yard like bluebirds, kestrels, meadowlarks, crows, sparrows, toads, praying mantis, lizards, rodents and spiders. They will eat young grasshoppers.
- If you can keep poultry, chickens, muskovy ducks, and guinea hens are great at eating insect pests. Allow them in your gardens, supervised, for a couple of hours each day so they can eat them up.
- Till soils in autumn to destroy eggs and again in the spring to destroy weeds that have germinated from disturbing the soil.
- Cover crops with aluminum screen to protect them from large numbers of grasshoppers.
- Apply beneficial nematodes to the soil in early spring. They will eat the grasshopper eggs and other destructive creatures before they have had time to destroy your garden. You can usually find them through mail order catalogs, but many good nurseries are starting to carry them as well.
- Try planting cilantro, horehound or calendula (picture to the right) around the perimeter of your garden to repel grasshoppers if they were a problem the previous year.
- If you like to fish, bass love grasshoppers as bait.
- Spray garlic oil directly on grasshoppers. Following is the recipe:
Garlic Oil Spray Recipe
- Mix 3 ounces of minced garlic with 1 ounce of mineral oil. Let soak 24 hours then strain.
- Mix 16 ounces of water with 1 teaspoon fish emulsion and 1 tablespoon castile soap (Dr. Bronner's is what I use).
- Combine fish emulsion water with the garlic oil and blend slowly. I find a blender works well for this.
- Keep this concentrated mixture in a sealed container that will last for several months.
- Mix 2 tablespoons of this garlic concentrate with 1 pint of water and spray as needed.
The above garlic oil spray will also work wonders on aphids. But remember it is non-selective and will kill beneficials as well, so only use it directly on the pest you are trying to control.
As with all homemade bug sprays, test on a small area of the plant, wait for 24 hours and then check to see if the plant was damaged by the spray. Some species of plants can be more sensitive than others.