Wherever you find grass, you will also find grasshoppers, and a few of the hundreds of grasshopper species found in North America can be major garden pests. Cool, rainy summers cause many grasshoppers to fall prey to disease, while hot, dry weather can lead to major grasshopper headaches. Locust plagues can have devastating effects on human populations, causing famines and population upheavals. They are mentioned in both the Koran and the Bible and have also been held responsible for cholera epidemics, resulting from the corpses of locusts drowned in the Mediterranean Sea and decomposing on beaches.
Hand-picking them is impractical, because with the help of their big compound eyes, grasshoppers see you before you see them.
As the grasshoppers eat their weight in grass daily, they are considered by many to be dangerous pests when it comes to cereals, vegetables, pastures, flowers, as both adults and nymphs chew on the leaves and stems of plants, and, when a population of grasshoppers adopts a swarming behaviour (circumstances under which they are more commonly referred to as locusts), they can destroy various types of crops over a wide area.
Taking care of them as babies is the best way you can avoid a full scale infestation. Baby grasshoppers hatch in spring and summer from eggs that were hidden beneath the surface of the soil. After hatching, they hide out in sheltered spots that are dense with vegetation, however, most of them are eaten by spiders, beetles, frogs or other predators. By ensuring you have islands of dense vegetation with mixed herbs, flowers and grasses located in your yard or garden, you will ensure to offer shelter to some predators of the grasshopper. They normally like to live in a grassy environment, so keep in mind that if you trim all the grass in your yard, they will naturally gravitate to the next grassy patch they find, which can be your garden.
You must ensure these insects can’t reach your plants, as hungry grasshoppers will heavily affect your garden. Place lightweight cloths over the plants, but be sure to hold them up above the plants with hoops or stakes, as a hungry grasshopper will eats its way through the plant, if its leaves are pushing against the fabric.
Natural repellents for the yard and garden
If you have chickens around the yard, let them free as they also like to feed on grasshoppers. Ducks, geese and other fowl will also pray on the insects, but they can also damage the plants in your garden, so you must pay attention to how long will you give them access to it. They can consume even more than 800g of grasshoppers per day. If you do not intend to raise yard birds for this purpose, you can try to attract birds such as the blackbird, lark, magpie, crow, falcon, sparrow. Such grasshopper predators will gladly eat these insects. Many bug-eating birds like to hunt by watching for movement from a perch, so studding your garden with trellises, posts and other upright structures can help birds feed more efficiently.
Grasshoppers are ferocious consumers of green plants and their appetite can cause a nightmare for gardeners and farmers. It is known that migratory swarms of locusts can devour with amazing speed everything in their way, so they are considered dangerous pests, as by decimating crops they are causing a lot of economical problems through this effect they have on farmers’ businesses.
By creating a barrier of highly scented herbs, that grasshoppers do not like, you can also keep them away. Such herbs are the marigold, the white horehound, coriander, sage, juniper, jasmine, and lilac. They have maximum effect if they are planted as a natural fence around your other plants or garden.
Based on the odour strategy, you can also use some natural oils that repel grasshoppers and can also affect their development, and you can apply then in the garden in the springtime. The most efficient such oil is that of garlic, diluted and applied on the plants found in your garden. Neem oil also has a powerful effect on these insects and can also be applied by diluting it and spraying it over the plants. It can even sterilize some species that come in contact with it, however the neem oil components are destroyed when coming in contact with light or soil, so they do not affect plants. This recommends neem oil as a natural pesticide, being very efficient and also biodegradable, as it is also approved to be used on food crops as well.
You can also plant cilantro, peas or sweet clover instead of applying them as spray, as a barrier around the valuable vegetables in your garden. You can also sprinkle white flour onto the plants, as it becomes gummy in the grasshoppers’ mouths so they will refrain from feeding on your plants in the future.
Another natural way of preventing the hatching of the grasshoppers is by plowing the land in the autumn, when the grasshoppers lay their eggs. This will discourage them from choosing such a land, as it won’t be optimal for breeding anymore. You can leave grass borders that are not mowed around your property as grasshoppers might stop there and make shelter, and not move along towards your yard and garden. Should you feel the population is growing out of control, you can also treat these areas with insecticide, managing to kill a large number of insects at the same time.
Grasshoppers can best be prevented from becoming pests by manipulating their environment. Shade provided by trees will discourage them and they may be prevented from moving onto developing crops by removing loose vegetation from plowed land and field margins and discouraging luxurious growth beside ditches and on roadside edges. With increasing numbers of grasshoppers, predator numbers may also increase, but this seldom happens sufficiently rapidly to have much effect on the insect populations.
Biological control is also being investigated, and spores of the parasite Nosema locustae can be used mixed with bait to control grasshoppers, being more effective with immature ones. Insecticides can be used, but adult grasshoppers are difficult to kill, and as they move into fields from surrounding rank growth, crops may soon become infested yet again. Timely application of pesticides can prevent nomadic bands of hoppers from forming before dense swarms of adults can build up, so exterminating them at an early stage is very important.