Grasshoppers are harmful insects that destroy garden plants and field crops. They date back to the Triassic period and are believed to be one of the oldest chewing insects. Locusts (short-horned grasshoppers) can even be more destructive when in swarms.
In the gardening hemisphere, two main insects cause the most damage to plants the world over. One of them is the caterpillar insect, and the other is the grasshopper.
Grasshoppers are listed as being in the Class Insecta, Order Orthoptera, and Suborder Caelifera, with over 11,000 species divided into superfamilies — the main one being Acrididae.
The other families are Pyrgomorphidae, Pneumoridae, Proscopiidae, Eumastacidae, Tetrigoidae, Tridactylidae.
They can be found all over the world except for the coldest areas like Antarctica and the poles.
They vary in size and color (green, brown, red, orange, and even rainbow) depending on their species.
Grasshopper Life Cycle
Grasshoppers have three main life cycles, and their lifespans depend upon their species.
Males insert sperm into the female’s vagina and fertilize the eggs. The female lays the eggs and sprays them with a semi-liquid substance that creates a pod around them.
Each of the pods contains approximately 15 to 150 eggs, and each female can lay as much as 25 pods, depending on her species.
The eggs are laid in midsummer, hidden under soil or leaf litter, and hatch ten months later.
This stage has five instars or molting stages where it sheds its exoskeleton as it grows. They can eat after they are one day old and will eat about half their body weight every day.
Nymphs are wingless and can’t reproduce. They also only eat succulent and soft plant foliage low to the ground.
They remain in this cycle for 5-6 weeks though it can be shorter depending on the species.
After the last molting, nymphs emerge as adults, but their wings are not formed yet. It takes about a month for the wings to be completely developed.
Meanwhile, the adult grasshopper diet is more substantial, eating even more than the nymphs as they grow their wings and look for mates.
Females start laying eggs 1-2 weeks after becoming adults, and they will continue to do so every 3-4 days until death occurs.
The lifespan of an adult is usually two months, but it’s shorter in some species and longer in one. Substantial
How to Get Rid of Grasshoppers in Garden Naturally
Here’s how to get rid of grasshoppers eating plants. These are some great natural ways to either kill or repel these voracious eaters before they decimate your garden.
1. Garlic Spray
Garlic is one of the cheapest ways to repel grasshoppers and locusts.
Take 3-4 whole garlic bulbs, chop them up and blend with 1 quart of water and 4-5 drops of liquid soap. Strain to remove any chunks of garlic left that might clog up a sprayer.
Store in a glass jar until ready to spray and then, add 10 parts water to one part garlic spray.
Spray early in the morning when the plants are dry coating plants evenly even the underside of leaves as well. Reapply once a week and after every rain.
2. Vinegar Spray
Another natural spray repellent. This spray is made with vinegar, and you can use either white or apple cider vinegar.
Mix one part vinegar to three parts water and 4-5 drops of liquid soap. Apply just as you do garlic spray.
3. Natural Predators
Grasshoppers have lots of natural predators with the most dangerous ones (to the grasshoppers) being birds, flies, and beetles.
Other organisms that prey on grasshoppers and locusts include:
- Parasitic wasps like paper wasps
- Praying mantis
- Some turtles
- Some snakes
- Largemouth bass
4. Long Grass Trap
Grasshoppers prefer grass to pretty much everything else.
Planting grass on the edges of your garden as well as in isolated parts of your yard will draw them away from the plants you want to eat yourself.
This is a great organic way to kill grasshoppers on plants. All kinds of birds love eating grasshoppers and locusts.
Providing a source of water and shelter as well as roosting spots will draw many wild birds to you. Besides, chickens and guinea fowl make great domestic pets and grasshopper control.
Chickens tend to do damage to some garden plants while guinea fowl are noisy. Both lay eggs that are good to eat.
6. Nolo Bait
This is a brand of natural insecticide using wheat bran. It’s covered with a one-celled protozoan called Nosema locustae.
This natural grasshopper repellent attacks only grasshoppers and those insects related to it, nothing else.
In 2-4 weeks after application, half the population will be dead, and the other half only eating and breeding half as much.
Nolo Bait is a long term solution that will require repeat applications to be successful.
7. Hot Pepper Spray
Yet another natural spray repellent.
Mixing hot peppers in with garlic, water, and organic liquid soap will repel any grasshoppers as both the taste and the smell of the plant will be horrible to them.
Apply the spray just as you do with garlic spray.
8. Soapy Water
This method tends to be a bit disgusting and time-consuming, but it is effective.
Early in the morning before the bugs warm-up and start moving, knock them off the plants into either a bucket of soapy water where they drown or onto the ground where you squish them.
It also works on locusts if they are not in swarms.
This should be done early in the spring and right after harvest. Both times will serve to kill egg pods and disrupt this part of the grasshopper’s life cycle.
Dusting your plants with a fluffy brush or a makeup brush and flour is a great way to get rid of the insects.
Regular household flour, when it mixes with the grasshopper’s saliva, creates a glue that seals up its mouth. They will die from hunger before they can get it off.
A pond or any other water feature is sure to attract frogs to your garden, and they love eating grasshoppers. In dry areas, toads are also good for getting rid of the insects.
12. Neem Oil
This natural oil is most effective when sprayed directly on nymphs as their bodies are still pretty soft and susceptible to poisoning.
Adults are more resistant to oil. Coating the plants will make them unpalatable to nymphs and adults.
13. Plant Flowers They Don’t Like
There are several plants grasshoppers won’t eat. Not just flowers but herbs and vegetables as well.
Plants that repel grasshoppers include Dianthus, Lantana, Moss Rose, Verbena, Jasmine, Tomatoes, and Squash.
Using these as companion plants in your garden will turn these eaters away before they do any damage.
14. Row Covers
Cover the rows of plants in early spring before any egg pods hatch, and the grasshopper nymphs won’t be able to get a start on your garden. This means they will go elsewhere to eat.
15. Kaolin Clay
Natural powdered clay you mix with water and liquid soap before applying to your plants. Kaolin clay will adhere to the insect and like flour, glue their mouths shut.
16. Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
DE is another excellent natural way to get rid of grasshoppers. This method is only effective on nymphs whose legs are soft.
Dusting diatomaceous earth on the base of the plants nymphs feed on will either repel them or kill them when they try to eat the plant.
17. Insecticidal Soap Spray
Insecticidal soaps made with pure organic ingredients can be purchased commercially. These may contain potassium hydroxide, Pyrethrin, and long-chain fatty acids.
The solution is only effective when sprayed on nymphs but might repel adults as well.
18. Molasses Trap
Use a yellow bucket filled with water and 10% molasses and place it in the rows where your crops are planted to draw them in and drown them.
You can also bury a jar halfway into the ground partly filled with water-molasses solution (10:1). Grasshoppers will hop in.
Pick the dead ones out and reuse the trap.
19. Semaspore Bait
Another brand using wheat bran sprayed with Nosema locustae. Semaspore Bait should be dusted around plants and onto the insects directly to be effective.
Locust vs Grasshopper
Locusts and grasshoppers are practically the same insects — only certain conditions have come into play that has changed the grasshopper into the locust. Think David Banner becoming the Hulk — only anger isn’t the trigger.
Grasshoppers are typically solitary and only come together to mate though they can gather for feeding in small groups when there’s plenty of food. They’re a nuisance, but they don’t cause a huge amount of damage.
Locusts are social, and they live together in groups, flying together from one patch of food to another. Swarms of locusts have been one of the leading factors of famine in some of the poorer parts of the world.
This is not the only difference between the two; locusts have smaller bodies and bigger, stronger wings for long-distance flying.
What triggers the change? When food is scarce, grasshoppers are forced together to eat whatever is available.
This means they’re constantly rubbing up against each other, and they compete for food so they eat everything they can, desperate to survive.
The survival instinct has them breeding more as well. All these stressors force them to not only change socially, becoming a group rather than being individuals, it also makes them change physically.
Their colors darken, their bodies shorten, and their wings get longer and stronger. Once the food is gone, they will swarm.
Grasshoppers, and Locusts, can be quite destructive to your garden, and the best offense is a good defense.
By stopping even a single grasshopper from invading, you can save yourself a lot of work and lost crops. Following the above remedies will help.