For Release June 18, 2002

Grasshoppers

AGRI-VIEWS
by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

I was walking along the edge of a soybean/wheat field recently. The wheat was alive with little grasshoppers and the soybeans immediately adjacent were showing quite a bit of grasshopper feeding damage. I was walking through a yard late last week and the lawn was literally a carpet of moving grasshoppers. Every potted houseplant around the house had hoppers and hopper damage as did the flower gardens and vegetable gardens.

One of the outcomes of a couple of years of drier than normal weather is an increase in grasshoppers. While our dry weather hasnít been quite as bad as theyíve had in western Kansas, it has been bad enough to give us a grasshopper population explosion. Keep in mind that grasshoppers are native to the prairies. In fact we have over 100 species of grasshoppers in Kansas, but only about 15 species do most of the serious damage. Unfortunately, there is no way to spray and kill the damaging ones without hurting the rest.

Grasshopper rule #1 - Grasshoppers will always be present in Kansas. We will always have some grasshoppers. You can find some grasshopper feeding damage every year. Several dry years in a row will cause a big increase in certain damaging grasshopper species,. One or two wet summers in a row, and some hard winter weather, will greatly decrease grasshopper populations.

Grasshopper rule #2 - Grasshoppers like lots of rank vegetation in which to hide and feed. Tall weeds and grass provide the grasshoppers lots of food and hiding places. Keeping large vegetation and weeds mowed down or controlled is a good first step towards reducing grasshopper problems. But you need to start early in the year and continue through fall to maximize this cultural control method. Grasshoppers will move into areas of heavy vegetation in the fall to lay their eggs in the ground.

If you wait until the weeds and grass around the garden are tall and full of grasshoppers and then mow, you will instantly push all the grasshoppers into the garden. Iíve seen gardens destroyed overnight when adjacent alfalfa or hay fields were mowed. With the food and cover mowed down, it created a literal plague of locusts that devoured the poor garden overnight. Start early in the season keeping the vegetation mowed down so you donít create a massive hopper staging area.

Grasshopper rule #3 - Small grasshoppers are easier to kill than large grasshoppers. If you notice a grasshopper problem developing now, it would behoove you to get to work on a control program as soon as possible. There are some natural and biological controls for grasshoppers, but their success can be limited and will be more successful with younger grasshoppers. You can try to use the natural control Nosema locustae, but have a back up plan in the wings. You can try putting out grasshopper traps which are large jars half full of a mixture of one part molasses in ten parts water.

For chemical control look towards most of the standard garden insecticides. Apply with lots of water in a hose end sprayer and concentrate in a buffer zone around the garden. Many times you can minimize spraying in the garden if you can control the grasshoppers around the garden. Treating the buffer zone every 7 to 14 days may be necessary to keep grasshopper numbers down to a minimal level. Grasshoppers will always be present in Kansas. This year we are just blessed with a few extra!

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