Insect Pest

Vegetable gardeners know that insect pest problems come with gardening and though rare, grasshoppers can cause damage to your vegetable crops.

There are about

six hundred species of grasshoppers in the country but only four or five species are a vegetable pest problem.

     Adult grasshoppers can live 2 to 3 months.

These include the red-legged grasshopper, the migratory grasshopper, the differential and the two stripped grasshopper.

Grasshoppers or called grasshopper by some people are a rural pest but as more people in the suburbs grow vegetables or flowers, increased sightings of grasshoppers are becoming more common. Usually any damage caused by this pest is limited to a few weeks in early summer immediately after range weeds dries up or after farmers harvest their crops late in summer or early fall.

Grasshoppers breed and grow in weedy undisturbed areas such as roadside ditches and country roads adjacent to farm land. But after harvest time when crops are no longer available, the grasshopper's food supply is depleted so they move on looking for another food source. If your garden is in their sight then your vegetable crops will become their next dinner.

So what do grasshoppers eat? Grasshoppers are herbivores which mean they feed on plants and grass but not on insects. If their natural food source of corn, wheat, alfalfa, oats and barley is used up they will eat plants, grass, flowers, trees, shrubs and lots of them.

If when inspecting your crops for insect pests you encounter only a few grasshoppers then there isn't much to worry about. Damage is usually only aesthetic, and the few grasshoppers you see can be hand removed from your plants. Usually their choice of vegetable plants is asparagus, lettuce, sweet corn, beans, carrots and onions. But oddly enough they will pass on tomatoes and squash. However, if farm crops are scarce you may find they will arrive in large numbers and are hungry. Very hungry! Then all bets are off and everything in your garden becomes fair game.

Insect Pest Tip:
Grasshoppers feed from the outer edges of leaves inward.

How to Control Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers like most insect pests are hungry, so give them something to eat to prevent them from searching out and eating your crops.

Grow tall grass or weeds around the perimeter of your garden but don't mow or let it dry out. You can also add a little attractiveness to your perimeter by adding zinnias or some other flower or vegetation. If you keep your perimeter lush and green invading grasshoppers will be content to remain there and feed and ignore your vegetable crops. Should one or two grasshoppers stray to your vegetable plants hand pick them and ugh! Squash them.

If you prefer a different approach, rather than offer grasshoppers a home, organic farmers will plant cilantro and marigolds as well as use garlic spray on their crops as a repellent. Yet, other gardeners suggest the use of insecticides such as Carbaryl (sold as Seven), Malathion spray and Nosema locustae sold under various trade names. Unfortunately their effectiveness is temporary and after a few days especially if it rains you will need to spray again.

For the most part especially if you live in the city, you will likely never have to deal with grasshoppers as an insect pest, so chalk one up for city dweller gardeners. And for you suburbanites, keep the faith and keep on gardening ... You will prevail!

For more information on other kinds of vegetable garden pests and how best to get rid of them, you might want to read our other article.

As always,

Happy Gardening

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