For Release June 22, 1999

Grasshoppers are Active Early!

by Chuck Otte, Geary County Extension Agent

The past several years we have seen a definite increase in the number of grasshoppers in the area. We aren’t really sure why the numbers are increasing. Normally grasshoppers increase in dry years but not in wet years. The past couple of years have not been dry! Grasshoppers lay their eggs in the soil in the fall. Any sort of fall tillage disturbs the eggs and decreases their chances for survival. Therefore the increase in the amount of no-till farming might be part of the reason. However, about 2/3 of the county is in permanent grass cover that isn’t disturbed in the fall anyway.

All of these discussions do very little to change the fact that we seem to be seeing a lot of early season grasshoppers. Small grasshoppers early in the season are sort of cute. Unfortunately small grasshoppers grow up to be big grasshoppers and big grasshoppers have big appetites! Big grasshoppers are also much harder to kill than small grasshoppers. So start your grasshopper management early.

We have a lot of grasshopper species in Kansas, over 100 in fact. The good news is that of all these grasshoppers only five are considered to be serious pests of plants. But just those five species can be very devastating under the right conditions. All major grasshopper species, except one, have one generation per year, so that early season control is very important.

As the soil warms up in the spring the grasshopper eggs hatch and the young grasshopper nymphs emerge and immediately start eating. Young grasshoppers will look much like the adults only smaller and without functional wings. The young grasshoppers will stay in the hatching area as long as there is food available. If these food supplies become exhausted they will start to move, often in large groups, to nearby areas. Since the young grasshoppers can not fly they must crawl. Once the grasshoppers go through their final molt they become adults with functional wings. They will stay active as adults throughout the rest of the summer feeding and laying eggs.

Grasshoppers prefer lush, rank vegetation as it provides protection from weather extremes and predators. One of the first steps in controlling grasshoppers in gardens and yards is to keep all vegetation mowed down. Regular mowing and trimming of border areas around yards and gardens will reduce available food sources and hiding places. One of the problems we encounter when trying to control grasshoppers is that a garden is sprayed, but the next day it’s full of grasshoppers again. The grasshoppers moved in from the unsprayed border areas. Therefore always spray the area you want to protect as well as a large border area around the yard or garden.

There are several biological controls that are sold for grasshopper control. These can work well, but normally large areas of hundreds or thousands of acres need to be treated for the best efficacy. In garden settings you can also use traps made of half gallon or gallon jars half filled with a mixture of one part molasses to ten parts water. Periodically empty these and refill. In yards and gardens there are several insecticides labeled for use, but remember that large adult grasshoppers will be much more difficult to control. Insecticides labeled for grasshoppers include: Orthene, Sevin, Dursban, Diazinon and Malathion. Apply with lots of water and retreat as indicated on the pesticide label. For more information on grasshoppers, stop by the Extension Office and pick up the bulletin, Grasshoppers in the Lawn and Garden.


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