There are more than 20,000 species of grasshoppers worldwide, with more than one 1000 species. occurring in the US.  As herbivores, they eat only plant material. Swarming species cause extensive damage to commercial crops, but a few grasshoppers in your garden can quickly decimate foliage to the point of killing plants. 

photo credit: laurenarcher.wordpress.com

photo credit: laurenarcher.wordpress.com

Interesting Facts about Grasshoppers

  • You may have heard that grasshoppers “spit tobacco juice.” The brown liquid isn’t evidence of a nicotine habit,; it’s a defensive mechanism used by some species.
  • When shedding their skin (moulting), grasshoppers swallow air to puff themselves up and burst their old skin.
  • Grasshoppers are a significant food source for birds, rodents, spiders, and certain insects including the praying mantis.
  • Some species can migrate long distances; these are the locusts that do heavy agricultural damage when traveling in huge swarms.

Instead of indiscriminately spraying lawn and garden with toxic pesticides to eradicate grasshoppers, a conservative approach is safer for people, animals, and the environment. Giving up a few plants to grasshoppers is preferable to sending someone to the hospital , veterinarian, or worse.

Controlling Grasshoppers

Using chemical pesticides is generally safe when applied  according to label instructions. Improvising on instructions by increasing the application can create safety hazards. In February to April, apply granulated insecticide to your lawn. This controls nymphs (immature grasshoppers). Applying a systemic pesticide such as acephate to affected plants is a good way to eliminate grasshoppers, as the plant absorbs the pesticide and becomes poisonous to anything that eats it.  There is also a preventative product called cyfluthrin that deters adult grasshoppers. Used in June or early July, this can help deter adult grasshoppers from consuming your plants.

Monitor grasshopper populations to determine if continued spraying is needed. Consult your local university agricultural extension service for pest control information and recommendations.