There are many species of grasshoppers in North America, and about 30 of these qualify as garden pests. They are most damaging in the center of the continent in a band extending from Minnesota and Montana in the north to Texas and New Mexico in the south.
All species and life stages of grasshoppers look essentially the same: Long narrow bodies, with long angled back legs suited to jumping, and a head featuring large eyes and chewing mouthparts. Adult grasshoppers are winged and can fly a good distance, but juveniles are wingless. Most overwinter as eggs in untilled soil. There are usually 1 or 2 generations per year.
Like many other pest populations, grasshopper populations rise and fall. In peak years, grasshoppers eat all the plants they encounter, wiping out entire gardens and fields. Initial signs of feeding by young grasshoppers are jagged and tattered holes chewed in leaves.
Cover plants with fabric row covers. The protozoan disease, Nosema locustae, is available commercially in a bait formulation, and is best applied early in the season.
Photography by the Russ Ottens, University of Georgia, Bugwood.org