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GRASSHOPPERS!! CAUSING GARDENING CHAOS SINCE PREHISTORIC TIMES!



Before we get into how to kill or deter these food addicted orthoptera, here are some interesting facts you might not know.

  1. Grasshoppers have ears on their abdomen. This tympana (ear drum) allows them to hear vibrations and sound waves/songs from other grasshoppers. They can hear but they do not differentiate pitch very well. Just strength and rhythm.

  2. Grasshoppers can fly! Yes, they have wings. If you walked through my yard this year, every step results in mass hysteria of grasshoppers flying in every direction.

  3. Grasshoppers existed before dinosaurs and have evolved over hundreds of millions of years.

  4. Grasshoppers spit brown liquid as a form of protection to repel predators. It's sometimes referred to as tobacco juice because they are a known pest in tobacco fields.

  5. Locust and Grasshoppers are from the same order and both famous for plagues, crop devastation and their musical qualities.

  6. People all over the world consider grasshoppers an important source of protein. Some places have turned them into popular street foods, flour, and delicacies. Even John the Baptist ate locusts/grasshoppers and honey.

  7. Grasshoppers cause Billions (with a B) of dollars in crop damage each year. A single grasshopper can eat half it's body weight per day in plants. When they swarm they can completely devastate and defoliate entire regions of food crops. They do not differentiate between wild and cultivated plants.

#7 is why we are writing this blog. We have all been devastated by grasshoppers this year here in Western Colorado. You can't walk across the yard without scattering chaotic fluttering grasshoppers in every direction. Unfortunately, most of us didn't anticipate this and didn't properly protect our organically grown crops this year, but we will be ready next time this happens!


WAYS TO PREVENT GRASSHOPPER/LOCUST DEVASTATION:


Attract and keep natural predators

Praying Mantis are the usual go to around here, but even this year it wasn't enough. Other natural predators to Grasshoppers/Locusts include:

  • Spiders

  • Wild Birds

  • Domestic birds like Chickens, Guineas, and Turkeys

  • Wasps

  • Coyotes


Grow a Trap Crop on the outside border of your garden or yard. Think tall green plants. As long as that stays tall, healthy and green, the grasshoppers will make themselves at home there. Examples of trap crops include dill, sunflowers, clover, sweet alyssum, basil, marigolds, alfalfa, Chinese cabbage, legumes, nasturtium, rye and cowpeas.


Plant to attract natural predators of grasshoppers and other beneficial insects. Some of those types of plants include goldenrod, black-eyed susans, daisies, calendula, cosmos, zinnias, and sunflowers.


Crop rotation is very important to deters overwintering of pests in the soil.


Neem Oil and Pepper Oil can help stunt grasshoppers growth at the nymph stage to prevent them from reaching maturity and procreating. Here is a popular Neem oil recipe.


Ingredients

  • One gallon of water

  • 1 tablespoons of concentrated, cold-pressed neem oil

  • 1 teaspoon liquid soap OR 1 teaspoon pre-wetted silica powder, explained below

  • Optional: 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon aloe vera powder (recommended for cannabis plants) and/or a few drops of essential oils

  • *use silica (potassium silicate) to emulsify neem oil - use can also use dawn dish soap

Mixing Instructions

  1. Fill your pump sprayer with one gallon of water.

  2. Emulsify the neem oil. In small container combine 1 tablespoon of neem oil with either 1 teaspoon of liquid soap, or 1 teaspoon silica solution. Stir thoroughly to combine. This should create a creamy thick yellow liquid.

  3. Fill a clean quart jar about three-quarters full with warm water, but not hot. Pour in your neem soap/silica solution. Cap and shake it like a polaroid picture for a good minute. When it is fully mixed, there will be no separation of oil on the side of the jar.

  4. Pour the warm quart of neem solution in to the pump sprayer to create your final diluted mixture. Cap, and shake well to mix. Be sure to spray the top and bottom of your leaves.


Set an Actual Trap. This works with a few different insects, but one that many gardeners have used as a prevention or to handle a mild grasshopper infestation is the old bait in a bucket trick. Fill a bucket or large bottle with fresh leafy grass and young leaves. Leave a small hole in the lid for the grasshoppers to crawl into the container, trapping them. How you choose to dispose of them after that is up to you. I can never bring myself to commit mass murder so I just keep them as pets, periodically replenishing the greens and let winter naturally kill them off and then throw them in the yard for the birds.


OTHER NATURAL TREATMENTS

  • Diatomaceous Earth sprinkled around the plant and on the leaves

  • Boric acid placed around the edge of your yard or garden

  • Garlic Oil sprayed similar to the Neem method


PROFESSIONAL SOLUTION: BAIT

Put out a bait early in the season near where the grasshopper eggs are most likely laid. One organic approved method is using a bait like Nolo Bait or Semaspore. It's a biologic that attacks nymphs and prevents them in the future. It can take a while to work, it only works on certain species of grasshoppers and they have to be in the early nymph stage.


ALAS...



The reality is, if you are dealing with a large infestation like we are, it's going to take several of these methods combined to get the population under control for next season. We never want to encourage dousing your gardens or crops in pesticides. With a little patience and some minor effort, you can get control of your production. You can always do like some places in the world and serve them up for dinner since they ate what we were planning to serve.

After all the destruction the grasshoppers caused this year, we are pretty sure they are the reason the dinosaurs went extinct. Now, go get em! The future of humanity could depend on it! :)


Happy Growing Everyone!


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