Over 1,000 species of grasshoppers are in the United States and worldwide the numbers go over 23,000. Their sheer numbers and voracious appetites make them enemy number one for farmers and gardeners.
The short- and long-horned grasshoppers of the families Acrididae and Tettigoniidae, respectively, feed on all crops and foliage, and lay their eggs either below the soil surface or in plant tissue. After the egg stage, grasshoppers enter the nymph stage, so the ideal time to take control actions is early in the spring as soon as the hoppers begin to hatch.
The one-celled parasite Nosema locustae (NL) infects and kills hoppers when they ingest the parasite. A single treatment can last for several years. Because hoppers are cannibalistic, they will eat parasite-infected dead hoppers. This sets up a chain reaction so that the infestation is passed from generation to generation (one generation = 60 to 90 days).
NL is usually sold mixed with branmeal to entice the hoppers. Apply at a rate of 1 to 2 pounds per acre and make a second application after 4 weeks. NL is sold under the product name NoLo and can be purchased at nurseries or online. Toxicity tests so far show that NL does not harm mammals, birds, fish, or aquatic invertebrates. Honeybees are afflicted by Nosema apis, not NL.
Several home remedies have been tried with varying success in controlling hoppers.
Sink glass jars filled halfway with a 10-to-1 water-to-molasses mix. The hoppers are drawn to the sweetness and drown in the mixture.
Brew very, very strong coffee, cool, and spray on the nymph hoppers. Hot peppers mixed with soap can also be sprayed on young hoppers.
Combine 3 ounces of minced garlic with 1 ounce of mineral oil and let stand for 24 hours. Next, mix in 1 tablespoon of dish soap. Add 2 tablespoons of this mixture to 1 pint of water to make a spray.
Repel grasshoppers by planting horehound (Marrubium vulgare), cilantro, and calendula as barriers or deterrents.
Vacuum up nymphs and adults with the shop vac.
Use row covers or screens to keep hoppers from your crops.
A controversial topic among organic gardeners is the use of neem oil to control insect pests. The oil is expelled from the seed of the Neem tree (Azadirachta indica) native to India. Neem has been used for centuries in India to protect stored grains.
Neem acts as an insect repellant and can stop or disrupt insect growth and sterilizes some species. Studies show that plants sprayed with neem are not eaten by hoppers, although the hoppers will land on the plants.
Neem oil insecticide suffocates insects that bite or suck on the plants. It can be a hazard, though, because the oil can suffocate good or bad bugs. So this aspect can harm beneficial insects!
Bluebirds, brown thrashers, crows, hawks, meadowlarks, sparrows, and other insect-eating birds feast on hoppers, as do snakes, toads, cats, and skunks. Chickens, ducks, and Guinea hens are prolific consumers of hoppers. And don’t forget: Live hoppers make excellent fish bait. The bigger the hopper, the bigger the fish you can catch.
Gary M. Vezzani was elected Walsenburg’s mayor in Tuesday’s special mayoral election/recall vote. Preliminary results announced Tuesday night show that both Nick Vigil in Ward