If your vegetable garden beds are surrounded by grass, your crops may get visitors: grasshoppers. If grasshoppers make their way to your veggies, you’ll begin to notice holes in your crops’ leaves and partially eaten produce. If very large numbers are present, you may lose your entire harvest to grasshoppers.
How can you protect your crops from these insects of mass destruction? Luckily there are organic pest control methods to help protect your crops, especially those vegetables grasshoppers are most fond of: lettuce, carrots, beans, sweet corn, and onions. You need not focus your grasshopper control efforts as much on squash, peas, and tomatoes.
Introduce or encourage predators
One way to control grasshopper numbers is by making them food for others. In particular, chickens, turkeys, guinea hens, and ducks love to eat grasshoppers. If you don’t have or want these types of animals, use birdseed to lure larks, bluebirds, or kestrels to the area of infestation so they can help you reduce the grasshopper population. Don’t forget that grasshoppers are perfect toys for roaming cats.
Tilling your soil in autumn may help expose grasshopper eggs. Till again in the spring for weed prevention since grasshoppers love to hide in weeds. You can also introduce living fungi spores of nosema locustae to infect and kill some types of grasshoppers. Further, having biologically active soil encourages the growth of organisms and microorganisms that cause diseases in grasshoppers.
Protect your plants
Grasshoppers typically don’t bother with physical barriers. Aluminum window screening or fabric may protect your plants, although some species have actually been known to chew through fabric.
Hot pepper wax
Sold as a liquid spray, insects are supposedly repelled by the taste of its main ingredient, cayenne pepper, and will not eat plant leaves. Hot pepper wax works on soft bodied insects.
This product from Amazon claims to be rainproof for only $15, and a majority of customers using it for its intended purpose seem satisfied.
Neem acts in two ways. Its main function is to act as a hormone that causes infected insects to forget to eat. Eventually the insect will die of starvation. So, a vegetable crop leaf covered in Neem oil may still show some damage, but insects that ingest Neem will not be back for more than a few helpings. Neem may also work as simply as a scent repellent.
Only available in certain states, Nolo Bait is an organic spore that kills both mormon crickets and grasshoppers, and will pass from grasshopper to grasshopper once they are infected.
Provide an attractive habitat
Since grasshoppers love to hide in tall weeds and grasses, consider providing an area of untamed grass in proximity to your garden to attract grasshoppers. This shelter may provide enough benefit for them to move from your tasty treats. If your grasshoppers need encouragement, design a temporary path for their migration.
Carbaryl dust (not organic!)
If you are not wedded to organic pest control, try carbaryl dust or spray. Although it is a potent grasshopper killer, it can be cost inhibitive if used on large gardens or lawns. An average 1000 square foot lawn will need five pounds of carbaryl dust at nearly $20 each. This method is only recommended for the desperate!
Creative Commons Flickr photo courtesy of Aleksey Gnilenkov