Grasshopper Control: Expert Advice

Grasshoppers can be difficult to battle, but here are some natural and nontoxic ideas for grasshopper control.
By Barbara Pleasant
Aug. 26, 2009
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Get grasshoppers under control with these safe, natural methods.
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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.

Hand-picking them is impractical, because with the help of their big compound eyes, grasshoppers see you before you see them. So what’s a grasshopper-plagued gardener to do? Here are six proven eco-safe strategies for dealing with hordes of ’hoppers.

Maintain Beneficial Havens

Baby grasshoppers hatch in spring and early summer from eggs hidden just beneath the surface in soil. Young grasshoppers hide out in sheltered spots that are dense with vegetation, where most of them are eaten by spiders, ground beetles, frogs and other predators. Thus, islands of dense mixed herbs, grasses and flowers located in or near your garden can serve as early-season traps for young grasshoppers.

Provide Bird Perches

Insect-eating birds are major grasshopper predators, especially in early summer when they must gather high-protein food for their young. 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.

Use Row Covers

The surest way to protect plants from hungry grasshoppers is to cover them with a barrier, such as a floating row cover or lightweight cloth. Be sure to hold the covers above plants with hoops or stakes, because grasshoppers are more likely to eat their way inside if leaves are pushing against the fabric. In west Texas and other areas where grasshoppers are especially bad, some gardeners make cones from aluminum screening to keep their plants safe from ’hoppers.

Feed Your Fowl

Chickens, ducks, guineas and other fowl eagerly snap up grasshoppers, but they can also damage garden plants. Ideally, you might let grassy pathways in your garden grow up a bit, and then move in a group of birds in a moveable pen.

Let Some Tall Grass Grow

Grasshoppers would rather live in a tall stand of grass and weeds than in your garden, so you may want to let a hedge of tall grass grow up near your garden’s edge in late summer. If you keep your garden weeded, grasshoppers will naturally gravitate toward the grassy patch.

Make Friends with Fungi

In some areas of the West and Midwest, grasshoppers are so damaging that biological warfare is worthwhile. A naturally occurring fungus, Nosema locustae, weakens and kills grasshoppers when they eat it. Sold as Nolo Bait and Semaspore, this method can help you reduce grasshopper populations at your place over time, making them much easier to manage. Earthworms and most beneficial insects are not harmed by Nosema locustae, but it is damaging to crickets and mantids (both are closely related to grasshoppers). Crickets are major consumers of weed seeds and mantids eat other bugs, so there is a bit of a trade-off here. But for gardeners who can’t walk through their gardens without being socked in the head by a flying grasshopper, Nosema locustae baits are a good choice.


Have you found any of the above strategies to be effective in grasshopper control? Do you have other ideas? Share your thoughts by posting a comment below.

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TerribleTim
8/24/2014 2:12:36 PM
After chasing the devils around by handpicking I found that a B B gun works great. They don't move and you can get within inches and they don't jump away

Bob1313
6/16/2014 7:34:14 PM
We have tried almost everything to control grasshoppers. We have lots of chickens and they help, but with the number of hoppers we have here, it would take a full brigade of hens working 24/7. Real problems getting any to work the night shift. Used the SemaSpore "bait" this year. Used more than enough, applied in the morning, twice, a few weeks apart. Even dug out an old "Whirlybird" to spread the stuff. Seems to have had more of steroidal effect, if anything. The grasshoppers are so bad here, that they even have killed Rocky Mountain Junipers. Hate to resort to insecticides, but do not know what else to do. Wait for "The Flood"?

JILL HINDERBERGER
8/20/2010 11:22:36 PM
Grasshopper control. You can't hand pick them easily, but you can grab them with your pruners or scissors, cutting them or putting them under your foot and squishing them. For some reason they don't see the tool coming, like they do with your hand. When they try to hide you can use your opposite hand to move them back into range. I don't know if I am making much of a difference in their population, but it gives me some satisfaction! It seems like their numbers are fewer......

Denise Bomia
3/18/2010 11:32:58 AM
Last year was my first attempt at vegetable gardening. Not surprisingly, it was also the first year I began seeing grasshoppers in my yard. I had no idea they were so damaging to my plants until researching online. Though I do not have enough space to keep chickens, I have another idea for an animal to help manage the grasshopper population: cats! My mostly-outdoor cat seems to enjoy trapping those little critters immensely. Imagine my surprise when I came upon him on several occasions "playing" with them. Gross, but I guess that's nature's way.

lynn self
9/13/2009 8:13:38 AM
I live in the Red River valley and have used the nolo bait. If used properly,by the exact directions, I did not have a problem with grasshoppers for the next six years. This year is the first time since we did the application I have seen a grasshoppper. Next year I will re-apply the nolo bait.

Frosty
9/12/2009 3:11:11 AM
I also had turkeys running around (though mine did do dust baths). They mostly left the garden veggies alone (loved watching them walk through picking off potato beetles!). Down the road about 1/2 mile there were hoppers ALL over the place, but very few here. Added bonus, they cleaned up apples that fell from the tree. These are a soft apple that bruises easily, so apples that fall are pretty damaged. With the turkeys cleaning them up, there were very few yellow jackets in the yard. Haven't been able to let them roam this year, a fox family moved in and a neighbors dog proved that it likes killing my poultry...

betty_26
8/28/2009 4:08:45 PM
Turkeys are great at grasshopper control and they don't scratch like the chickens do. They also aren't as destructive to the garden as some other birds (can't fly over the fence as well as chickens and don't take as many dust baths). Peacocks work too. I also rimmed one side of our property with the grasshopper plague stuff the article mentions and that side is mostly free of grasshoppers even a year later. We still have hoppers but not as bad as before.

Vince_3
8/28/2009 3:01:52 PM
Debbie, You say the grasshoppers don't touch your "tomatoes, pickling cucumbers and yellow squash." Go non-conventional and try a variation of the Three Sisters (or Milpa). In the corn, bean and squash combination of Milpa, the squash's role is to keep predators away. ( Background info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Sisters_(agriculture) ) Maybe you could interlace your "tomatoes, pickling cucumbers and yellow squash" with companion plants and they could help preserve the garden. Also, many good companion plants are herbs which repel bugs. Here's a good article on companion plants: http://www.ghorganics.com/page2.html Best of luck!

len buckholtz
8/28/2009 2:24:36 PM
eat em. not you, the pets. ... usually the will NOT like soap taste, so start spraying small amunts of soapy water on the plants. not detergent, use something like peppermint soap that trader joe sells. the guys in escondido, with all the weird writing on the bottle, sells good stuff too, but it's about 2x more costly. some kind of trade thing with some foreign country. my foreign country to support is the grandkids. so i go for the cheaper one.

Debbie G
8/28/2009 1:51:47 PM
I have been dealing with hundreds of grasshoppers for the past 3 years. I have done everything listed in this article, but have still lost most of my garden. The row covers only work on the non-flowering plants. The only things they don't seem to bother are the tomatoes, pickling cucumbers and yellow squash but they do damage the ripe fruit. I hope someone out there has more ideas. I am at my wits end.

LynnC
8/28/2009 12:12:14 PM
What about using "Diatomaceous Earth"? I've heard that it works well for control of ants, spiders and slugs yet is relatively harmless to birds and mammals....

Zackary LeRoy
8/26/2009 4:02:11 PM
Those are great tips we are planning to move to Arizona soon and there is a huge grasshopper population there but I have already gotten plans to raise chickens out there and it is a great idea.








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