texasoiler2(Z6b)June 22, 2013

I am inundated with grasshoppers all over our yard, garden and flower beds. I have been using 7 dust but they seem to like it and invite more of their friends for a party! My flower leaves have more holes than a sieve and I need help. What would you all suggest to combat them? Thanks in advance for the advice, Jill

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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You have my sympathy. Some years the number of grasshoppers is just ridiculous.

To combat them? Well, maybe a nuclear bomb, but that would be hard on the flowers, yard and garden.

In order to suggest a workable strategy, I'd like to know how big the ones you're seeing right now are. An inch long? A half-inch long? A couple of inches long or longer? Some products are more effective on small ones in the earlier instars than on larger ones, so knowing their size kinda determines how I'd answer the question..

Also, how dry is your area right now? Still in drought?


    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 9:14PM
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Dawn they are in several stages of growth, some 1/2" or less up to 1-2". They are thick in my sunflower patch to the extent they have chewed some 2' plants down to limping stem only. Garden has mainly small ones, 1/2" and some 1/4" in size. Have been waiting for their cycle to break and have them move on but at this rate I won't have any plants at all, flower or vegetable. Any ideas?
Our drought rate is "dry" according to mezzo but here at our place we've had 19" of rain since May storms. Ground is clay mostly so dry on top but damp couple inches down. Garden and flower bed in front drain slowly so those 2 areas have been moist longer than other beds. Again, thanks for any imput


    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 10:03PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


Unfortunately, once the grasshoppers are larger than 1/2-3/4" of an inch in length, they're a lot harder to kill. You may have more luck in the garden with the small ones.

I try to garden as organically as possible, but the danged grasshoppers have driven me to use one synthetic product. It is called Ecobran and is a wheat bran bait that contains 2% Sevin. It seems pretty effective, though I don't us it often. The reason I chose EcoBran over spraying Sevin or Malathion or anything else is because, since it is a bait, it only affects pests that eat it. That means it generally doesn't harm beneficial insects, which I think is important. I keep a sealed container of it in my potting shed and when I notice fairly large numbers of grasshoppers in the veggie garden, I sprinkle it over their favorite plants....or whatever plants they are on when I see them. In my mixed cottage garden that contains veggies, fruits, herbs and flowering ornamentals, the hoppers seem to show up first on Lemon Balm and on Catnip, both of which are scattered randomly around the garden precisely to attract the hoppers. The grasshoppers just flock to those two types of plants, and I scatter the EcoBran there. I see smaller numbers of hoppers within 24 hours, and see a real drop-off in the population within a few days. I usually only have to use it once or twice a year. This doesn't mean I don't have grasshoppers---I have them all the time. It just means that the EcoBran keeps their numbers down.

Anything you do to control grasshoppers has to be part of an overall plan...not random efforts. So, here's what my overall plan involves:

1) As soon as grasshoppers start hatching, if there is a significant number of them compared to other years, I buy and use Nolo Bait or Semaspore. Both contain a microorganism (Nosema locuste) that kills them. Sometimes I see hoppers hatching out in January if it is a warm winter in southern OK, sometimes I see them in May, but usually in a typical year I see them in March or April. Nosema locuste kills them after they ingest it. It takes a day or two, but they stop feeding almost immediately after eating it. Best of all? Well, the microorganism lives on in their body. Since grasshoppers are cannabilistic (there isn't much they won't eat), it then infects and kills the next grasshopper that comes along and eats the body of a dead grasshopper. How cool is that? However (and there always is a however), there are limitations to its effectiveness. First of it, it is a living microorganism that is most effective in cool weather, so I normally only use it in April and May. Secondly, it is most effective on small hoppers, roughly in the 1/4-1/2" size. Third, it is not necessarily easy to find. I can get it in a couple of different nurseries or garden supply places about 80-90 miles south of me in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Unfortunately, it is a very popular organic remedy and sells out. However, you can find it online. Just be careful if you order it online. I ordered it from one place that took too long to ship it and it arrived too late to be useful. This is doubly frustrating because....Fourth, it has an expiration date. There is nothing worse than having something arrive to late to use and then its expiration date is less than a week away so you cannot save it and use it later. When I buy it, I only buy the quantity I can use in the next few weeks, and I store it in an extra refrigerator out in the garage which helps ensure it works well when used. I really like Nosema locuste and use it about once every 3 years. Normally I buy a one-lb. container and spread it around on the garden, yard and areas closest to the house, yard, garden, etc. I use it all up by spreading it once. One year, after grasshoppers had been horrific the year before, I bought a 5-lb.container of it and put it out about once every 3 or 4 weeks beginning in early March through the end of May, and covered a larger area that usual. That worked amazingly well, so much so that a local rancher stopped by one day and asked what I was using for grasshopper control. I was sort of puzzled because, after all, we all had grasshoppers all over the place. He explained that when he drove up the road every day, he noticed huge hordes of grasshoppers flew up into the air from the side of the road as he drove by---except when he drove by our house. He said he hardly saw any on our property. (I really hadn't even noticed that myself until he mentioned and then I started watching as I drove up the road and realized he was right.) So, while we still had grasshoppers, we didn't have as many as anyone else.

It has been probably 6 or 7 years since I put out the 5 lbs. of Nolo Bait, and I think next spring I'll do it again. That's part of the overall plan, but it likely won't help you much now unless you can find some of this product (Nosema locuste is found in more products than the two I mentioned, it is just those are the two I've used) and use it in the garden ASAP. I'll link a source, but I have no idea if they can/will ship it fast enough to help if you decide to try it this year. I'd sure use it next spring though. Nosema locuste seems most effective in cool, rainy spring weather, and I think that likely is because those conditions are perfect for this disease to thrive. So, that's the recommended biological control.

If I was trying to deal with a major grasshopper outbreak on a long-term basis, I'd use the Nosema locuste whenever the hoppers are hatching out and are in the smaller instars. Then, I'd use EcoBran to deal with the regular influx of them that begins in early summer and continues until cold weather arrives in the fall. These are the safest and most organic way to deal with hoppers. Even though EcoBran contains Sevin, it is only 2% and it is in a bait that must be eaten, so it only affects the insects that eat it. I like using a more narrow-spectrum pesticide in that way as opposed to spraying a broad-spectrum pesticide.

Now, for more ideas on how to deal with a major outbreak in hot weather:

1) Mow, mow, mow. Keep the grass cut as short as you reasonably can. We always keep our lawn mowed, but we live on acreage and let the pastures grow mostly unmowed, at least until the hopper outbreak is in full force. Once the hoppers are present in high enough numbers to do significant damage, we mow the grass short. It really does cut down on how many hoppers you have. Unfortunately, we have grassland (unmowed for the most part) on all sides of our property and there's nothing we can do about all that rangeland, which is the natural habitat of grasshoppers. That's where my hopper troubles sort of grow in magnitude as the summer goes on....if we are watering the garden and yard and it is green while the unirrigated rangeland is drying up and browning....guess where the grasshoppers go? That's right. They move to the green areas.

If you garden organically, there's not a lot you can do about the summer influx of hoppers. I let my chickens free-range and they'll eat a lot of them, but they cannot eat them all. I also keep bird feeders full and have bird baths for the birds in order to attract wild birds. I believe the wild birds eat grasshoppers and other pests in my garden because my garden is full of songbirds all day long....and the bird feeders and bird baths are close to the garden, but not in it, so they are coming to the garden to eat insects.

An old-fashioned way of dealing with them is to mix some water with molasses and put it in quart canning jars (or old food jars from purchased spaghetti sauce or something) filled halfway to the top. Put the jars in the garden. The hoppers go into the jars to drink the water and drown. I've done the same thing with alfalfa tea (just put handfuls of alfalfa rabbit feed into 5-gallon buckets of water and let it sit for a few days). Lots of pests are drawn to the alfalfa tea and drown in it.(Obviously I wouldn't leave 5-gallon buckets half full of any liquid sitting around if there are small children around who could fall in head first and drown in the bucket).

We had guineas for years and years and they are grasshopper-eating machines. I just had trouble keeping the guineas alive because they are loud and call attention to themself and that attracts predators they eat them. Still, in a rural area, they are a big help. Oh, and my chickens free-range only during the day and only when I am at home to rescue them if a coyote or hawk comes calling. At night and when we are away from home, they are securely locked up in a fenced chicken run with a roof that keeps the predators out.

If you want to go the chemical route, clearly it is time to try something other than Sevin, since it clearly isn't working as well as you'd like. If I were in your shoes and I wanted to spray something synthetic, I'd probably use Malathion. However, since I strive to garden as organically as possible, I've never used Malathion, so my recommendation of it is based solely on having friends who believe it is a somewhat effective grasshopper control. My main objection to spraying any broad-spectrum pesticide is that it has the potential to kill all the insects, when many of the insects are beneficial and helpful to you. In a typical garden or lawn-type situation, about 95-97% of the insects you see are beneficial, and only about 3% are harmful. I hate to hurt the large population of good insects in order to kill the small population of bad insects, but sometimes you have to make tough choices to do just that.

Watch this summer for blister beetles. While they generally are a garden pest, they have one redeeming quality----they simply devour grasshopper eggs. The blister beetles are usually present in large numbers from about July onward, and will seek out and eat grasshopper eggs for as long as the weather allows them to do so. This is very, very important. The more you have blister beetles eating hopper eggs in the summer and fall, the fewer grasshoppers you'll have hatching out the following late winter or spring.

Some people spray their desirable plants with a kaolin clay product called Surround WP. It leaves a thin white coating that looks kind of like dust on the plants you spray with it, and that coating can repel some pests, including grasshoppers, because it makes the plants unappealing to them and it can gum up their mouths, When I was a kid in the 1960s and 1970s, I knew gardeners, including some family members, who would sprinkle plain all-purpose flour on their garden plants (using a flour sifter) in pretty much the same way we use Surround WP nowadays. They believed the flour gummed up the grasshoppers' mouth parts. I tried that in 2003 when the hoppers were incredibly bad here, and I couldn't really tell it worked and I hated the way the plants looked. The Surround WP is more subtle than flour. It is a wettable power that you mix with water and spray on the plants.

Unfortunately, the larger grasshoppers get, the harder they all to kill and, as you undoubtedly know, they can migrate and travel in huge hordes in the summer months, continually seeking out lush green vegetation to feed upon.

I don't know if anything I have said here will help, but if you use pretty much all the above in a consistent attack, you can lower the number of grasshoppers you have. If you are in a rural to semi-rural area, you already know that they move into green areas as rangeland dries up. and if you wipe out one bunch of them, more keep coming.
If you are on rural land and you or someone in your family is a registered pesticide applicator, you can use Dimilin on rangeland, though I don't know if it is labeled for anything other than rangeland. My friend, Fred, uses it on his ranch during bad outbreaks, but isn't entirely happy with its efficacy. Neither am I. During our last really huge outbreak a few years back, the ranchers sprayed repeatedly with broad-spectrum pesticides and our bird population dropped tremendously. It was 3 or 4 years before some of the birds seemed to have made a comeback. That's one reason I have so far avoided using a broad-spectrum pesticide. There are some broad-spectrum organic pesticides, like Spinosad, but I just won't use any broad-spectrum pesticide if I can avoid it. Some people have sprayed neem oil on plants and feel like it reduced the number of grasshoppers feeding on the plants, but only when the grasshoppers are small. On larger ones, it seems less effective.

I'm going to link the grasshopper page from Arbico Organics because it shows some of the products I've mentioned.

The last time I purchased Semaspore and EcoBran, I bought them from Planet Natural. You can find them by googling. I no longer use them since they messed up two orders in a row and then took forever to process the refund for a product I never received. I'm done with them, but I mentioned them for you because I don't know of anyone else who was carrying EcoBran other than them back when I bought it.


Here is a link that might be useful: Page of Products For Grasshopper Control

    Bookmark   June 22, 2013 at 11:15PM
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Thanks for the info Dawn. I am not a fan of chemicals either except occasionally the 7 dust and homemaid insectacidal soaps for patio plants. Guess I'll just keep watch over my shrubs and young trees, cause they're just too expensive to lose, and see what happens. I planted basically new ground with lots of re-seeding type flowers this year till I come up with more specific plans for beds and areas around the yard. It's a 2 1/2 acre rural area with the front acre in pasture and the back 1/2 in yard and garden. I always mow short cause I'm afraid of snakes, lol, so keep my area short and clean and give them a place on the borders to stay out of my way...most of the time it works, lol.Lived by the coast for too many years to be complacent about wide-spread use of chemicals and watershed into tide pools and run-off back to the bays...unbelieveable amount of harm to plants and aquatic life and ecosystems. Thanks for the info and here's hoping I'll have enough flower to seed ratio to see a better season next year. I appreciate all the time you spend answering peoples questions and giving advice and encouragement to readers.You are a treasure to the forums. Jill

    Bookmark   June 23, 2013 at 8:55AM
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I put out some molasses traps today... I didn't know anything about combating grasshoppers until they were huge (we even nicknamed one gigantico, he had to be 3.5" long), and didn't realize the destruction they would cause. We still have some small ones, so we are going to go look for the EcoBran, and more molasses.

Has anyone tried this: Black Strap Molasses: combine 4 ounces of this with one quart of water. Spray directly on hoppers. This will clog their pores so they cannot breath resulting in their death. And do they know if it works? I have a 6 year old who would love to spray all the hoppers, I even bought him a bug net for his birthday on Saturday to entice him to help. :)

Next year I'm definitely starting early. They are not only eating my pepper leaves, but the peppers themselves, and they are slowly working on the peaches still on the tree, some are already down to the stones. They make me so angry, the larger they get the more bold they are... you can flick at them and all they do is move to the other side of the stem.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 12:21PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7
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