The Q&A Archives: What to do about grasshoppers?

Question: Every year around July until October grasshoppers move into my front lawn and front gardens(the front of my house faces east, lots of sun for about 6 or 7 hours). Because of the heat, my gardens are all drought resistant perennials. Cone flowers, many sedums, butterfly bushes, lilies, coreopsis etc..I have tried many different pesticides and nothing seems to work. What do you suggest I do to get rid of the grasshoppers? Thank you.

Answer: You might be able to reduce grasshopper numbers by encouraging birds to visit your yard. Many birds enjoy dining on nymphs. These include crows, catbirds, bluebirds, mockingbirds, sparrows and meadowlarks. Add a birdbath or other water source to attract birds. In rural settings, gardeners can use poultry (turkeys, guinea hens and chickens) to consume grasshoppers.

The best way to control grasshoppers, however, is to kill them while they are small and vulnerable and before they move from their breeding areas into your yard. Water grasshopper breeding areas, so that they will remain lush enough to attract and sustain the hoppers. Then apply baits that that will kill the insects.

Baits are effective and, unlike insecticidal sprays, they are less likely to harm other beneficial insects. Their use can be especially effective on the nymph population because the young grasshoppers have such a voracious appetite. Baits usually consist of a mixture of bran (or a similar carrier) and the insecticide carbaryl (Sevin). Read the label carefully to determine if the formulation of carbaryl is suitable for bait use. Scatter the bait in breeding areas early in the morning before the nymphs start feeding. Bait must be fresh (slightly moist) to attract hoppers. If the bait dries out or is wet from rain or irrigation, it will not be effective.

Another approach for long-term control is the use of a biological control disease organism, the protozoan Nosema locustae. This, however, is not a quick fix and does not work when grasshoppers already have moved in. Nosema locustae is most effective on young grasshoppers.

This biological control will reduce grasshopper numbers over a few days or weeks, but, generally, it is a slow-acting disease that takes at least a year to affect grasshopper populations. N. locustae is available at many garden shops and nurseries and is sold under various trade names. Use this product strictly according to label instructions.

Because adult grasshoppers are older and tougher than the nymphs, they are more difficult to control. Deter them from your garden by keeping other areas of your property well-watered to provide a lush alternative. Provide a birdbath or other water to attract birds to your garden.

Hoppers lay eggs in dry grassy areas such as roadsides and vacant lots. Watering your property throughout the year, including winter, will reduce the number of dry areas. Although heavy frosts will kill the adult hoppers, their eggs survive extreme cold. To expose grasshopper eggs to predators, cultivate, double-dig or till your garden after a heavy frost.

Best wishes with your garden!

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