The grasshopper is a flying animal belonging to order Orthoptera and class Insecta. About 11,000 species exist.
There are many different types of grasshoppers. They share some characteristics, no matter what is the species. They also differ in size and color. They include large eyes and coloring that matches their environment. Grasshoppers usually are brown, green, gray or black in color. They have large hind legs that help them jump long distances, hence their name.
Adult grasshoppers have two sets of wings; the forewings that are lean and the hind wings that are large. These insects also have antennae, which are short. The male grasshopper has a single unpaired plate at the end of each abdomen, while the female has two pairs of triangle-shaped valves. Female grasshoppers are bigger than males, and their abdomens are sharply pointed to help them dig holes to lay eggs underground. Male grasshoppers have wings with additional attachments that they rub together to produce sounds.
A female grasshopper lays egg pods in the ground after digging a small hole with her abdomen. The shape, the size, and the number of eggs contained in each pod vary depending on the species. Grasshoppers naturally lay their eggs in warm weather. If the eggs are laid in cold weather, some can become sluggish until the weather is favorable for them to mature. Female grasshoppers lay an average of 200 eggs during their lifetimes.
When the grasshopper is very young, it doesn’t have any wings, but later, in life, the wings can easily be seen at the end of the thorax.
Why Are They Harmful To Garden Plants
Grasshoppers have different effects on the environment. Their feces enrich the soil by returning organic matter to the earth. Grasshoppers also provide a food source for many other animals, including larger insects, birds and some small mammals. However, grasshoppers also can have a negative impact on their surroundings if populations become large and destroy valuable crops and other plants.
All grasshoppers very much like plants and they often fall prey to birds, praying mantis, rodents and even spiders when they get caught in webs. When grasshoppers occur in larger numbers, they can cause serious damage to crop and cause a loss of plants for animals in the meadow.
Life Cycle Of Grasshoppers
During mating the male grasshopper deposits sperm into the female’s vagina, which finds its way to the eggs through canals known as micropyles.
Grasshoppers undergo simple complete or incomplete metamorphosis that consists of 3 or 4 stages: egg, larvae, pupa, adult for the complete stage, while egg, nymph, adult for the incomplete metamorphosis. And its lifespan is approximately one year.
Let me discuss to you each stage of the grasshopper’s life cycle.
Egg. This is the initial stage of a grasshopper’s life cycle where female grasshoppers try to choose a good place to lay their eggs. The mother grasshopper lays fertilized eggs in midsummer. Using her ovipositor and abdomen, the female grasshopper inserts the eggs about 1 or 2 inches underground. Then, she sprinkles them with a sticky semisolid substance to form an egg pod. Egg pods are oval to elongate and often curved. Each egg pod contains 15 to 150 eggs, depending on the species. Normally a female grasshopper can lay up to 25 pods. The eggs remain underneath for about 10 months in autumn and winter before hatching into nymphs during spring or in the initial days of summer.
Nymph. This is the second stage of the grasshopper’s life cycle and the initial stage during which a young grasshopper sees the outside world. Newly hatched nymphs are white, however, after exposure to sunlight, they assume the distinctive colors and markings of an adult grasshopper. They are the miniature versions of adult grasshoppers, it’s just that they are wingless and they still lack the reproductive organs
However, they undergo 5-6 sub-stages known as instars that change their form and structure before fully developing into an adult. As the nymphs molt their skin, their size increases, and their wing pads progressively develop. To survive, nymphs start to feed on succulent and soft plant foliage barely one day after hatching from the egg. This stage lasts for about five to six weeks before the young nymphs mature to adult grasshoppers.
According to studies, the survival rate of Nymphs after hatching is about 50%, as chances are high that they may be eaten by predators like birds, rodents, and lizards.
Molting. The molting process is also known as the “incomplete metamorphosis” stage. And this takes place during the nymph stage where the locust sheds its exoskeleton before maturing into an adult. While the exoskeleton covers the nymph’s body, providing it with protection against external injuries, it restrains its growth because of its inability to give room for expansion. The nymph must shed it to achieve growth. It undergoes five to six molts in which it changes its structure and form before reaching adulthood.
Adult. After 25-30 days, we have now a fully-grown grasshopper. Where the wings are fully developed and the Nymphs matured to an adult grasshopper. They now developed the character to help them hunt for food and flee from predators.
Meanwhile, the reproductive organs are fully grown, so the females can lay eggs and the males can fertilize. However, female grasshoppers do not lay eggs until they are 1 or 2 weeks old, to allow them to gain enough weight before they start laying eggs. Once she starts laying eggs, the female continues to lay eggs at intervals of three to four days until she dies. Adult grasshoppers live for about two months, depending on the weather.
Like many other insects, grasshoppers hatch from eggs. While young, they look like the adults of the species but change a little with each metamorphosis as they shed their outer skin. By the time grasshoppers have fully matured, they have wings that help them move from place to place. They sometimes migrate to find new sources of food, often joining together into large groups to do so.
Common Habitat For Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers live in the fields, meadows and just about anywhere they can find generous amounts of food to eat. They are also plentiful in the spring and summer when the weather is beginning to get warm.
However, you can also find them during fall. But the best time to locate grasshoppers is during the middle of the day when they are feeding. Nevertheless, they can be located at night too by using a flashlight.
With over 10,000 different species in existence, Grasshoppers can be found almost everywhere in the world, except for the colder regions near the North and South poles. Although most grasshoppers live in areas with lots of grass and in open area, some develop in jungles and forest too.
In general, grasshoppers are most tending to be found in the dry open areas with a lot of low plants like grass. Because of the low, open areas, make the grasshopper use their long wings effectively.
Just a piece of information that I would like to share with you is that grasshoppers hate the swamp areas and the dense forest because they couldn’t survive in that kind of environment for they will be hungry since there aren’t a lot of low plants to feed on.
What Do Grasshoppers Eat
Grasshoppers mostly eat plants, specifically leaves, grasses, and cereal crops. Some species live on a host plant and eat its leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds. Other grasshopper species eat what they find on the ground, such as pieces of leaves and flowers, seeds or dead insects. But grasshoppers can be picky about their food. They often sample foods before they begin feeding. Most of the time, grasshoppers choose items that supply them with the right types of amino acids, sugars, and vitamins.
It may not be readily apparent, as grasshoppers have a set of fierce-looking mandibles, or teeth, on the exterior of their faces, but grasshoppers are strict herbivores. Even though they aren’t dangerous to humans, the diets of grasshoppers are still very important for people to understand. When there are too many grasshoppers in one area, they transform into locusts and can swarm across entire continents, gobbling up every farmer’s crop in their path and causing millions of dollars in damage.
What Do Baby Grasshoppers Eat. Like all other insects, grasshoppers hatch out of eggs and go through several different stages before becoming adults. Again, as mentioned above, baby grasshoppers are called nymphs and begin life looking like very small, bright green grasshoppers. When they have just hatched, nymphs can’t move very far and must eat whatever plants are around them. They prefer small, tender plants that they can digest easily, like clover, grass or fresh shoots.
What Do Adult Grasshoppers Eat. Grasshoppers’ favorite food would be planted in the grass family such as corn, wheat, barley, and alfalfa. It’s not strange to see grasshoppers chewing on the leaves of a tree, and eating the grass beneath it since they aren’t picky and can eat many other types of plants.
They are also able to digest even the driest plants they see thanks to special chemicals in their stomach and saliva, which can break down the carbohydrates they use for energy.
Grasshoppers also like to eat almost any kind of vegetable, including carrots, corn, lettuce, beans, and onions. Two items that grasshoppers do not care for are tomatoes and squash. On the other hand, Grasshoppers also eat shrubs and trees. If nothing else is available, they will also eat moss and lichen off a tree’s bark.
Although grasshoppers are not classified as meat eaters, they will eat other insects or even their own kind to survive in times of drought or famine.
Did you also know that they are one of the few animals able to change their appearance in response to environmental pressures like overpopulation? Yes, they are because generally, they are solitary creatures that would try to avoid each other whenever they feel congested.
There is a special chemical that triggers the grasshoppers to eat more, grow bigger, lay eggs faster, or even resettle in groups whenever they feel other grasshoppers rub up against their legs.
Getting Rid Of Grasshoppers By Managing Your Garden Environment
According to experts, grasshoppers are the most annoying and unshakable of all garden pests because of their enormous leaping ability. Grasshoppers lay tiny egg clusters in the soil that are difficult to spot before they hatch.
One of the most effective strategies for getting rid of grasshoppers includes keeping insect-eating animals on the property, killing grasshopper eggs which include chemical pesticides, poisoned grasshopper bait, and dusting plants with flour.
Pesticides are only effective when sprayed over the entire property. But here’s something that I could recommend. Apply pesticides during the month of May or June, and add canola oil to the mixture. The oil attracts grasshoppers and encourages them to consume pesticide-treated leaves.
Meanwhile, the most popular biological grasshopper bait contains Nosema locustae, a protozoan that causes infections in young grasshoppers. Nosema locustae harm grasshoppers but have no bad effect towards the ladybugs and the other beneficial garden insects. Also, the bait works slowly but has no effect on older adult grasshoppers anyhow. On the other hand, packages of Nosema locustae bait require refrigeration and remain effective only until their expiration date.
Take note of the 6 quick summary ways to get rid of grasshoppers in the garden:
- Spread a few applications of grasshopper bait to get rid of the young grasshoppers.
- You can make your own garlic spray by mixing crushed garlic with water and essential oil.
- Plant natural grasshopper repellants like cilantro and pot marigold in your garden.
- Dust the leaves of affected vegetable crops with any ordinary flour.
- Introduce beneficial insects like spiders and praying mantis.
- Set up a long grass area in a secluded area of the backyard.
Using Organic Grasshopper Control
Sometimes, there’s no need for us to perform the harsh way, but instead, just use the safer way, which is the organic way. Though hopefully, you did have success in reducing the grasshopper’s population by following those methods mentioned above.
Just one more thing on getting rid of grasshoppers is that you need to simply understand their behaviors. For example, if these grasshoppers didn’t exist in the past but only started to become a problem in recent weeks, then a change in your garden may have caused the grasshopper population to increase to an unsustainable level.
Here are some natural ways to control the outgrowing numbers of grasshoppers in your garden:
Use a Garlic Spray. Grasshoppers don’t like the smell and the taste of garlic. So, applying a bit of garlic solution to your garden won’t kill the grasshoppers but it could do enough to keep them away. It is super easy and fast to prepare a garlic spray. First is to crush the garlic and mix it with water or mineral oil.
To make the solution highly concentrated, you should be looking to crush about two bulbs of garlic and having that mixed with about a half a cup of water. And when the garlic is mixed together with the water or mineral oil, give it about 24 hours before you pour the solution into a spray bottle. Then there you are, with your very own garlic spray.
Pesticide Soaps. This is an organic pesticide soap that can effectively wipe out grasshoppers easily. It contains a fatty acid that could easily diffuse the grasshopper’s body in no time. You just need to be extra careful when using this kind of remedy for you don’t want your plants to be dehydrated.
Use Other Natural Repellent. When you are not comfortable with the idea of garlic spray, then try to consider another natural alternative such as cilantro. You might even want to try the idea of growing the cilantro as barriers around your treasured gardening crops. Depending on the severity of the grasshopper infestation, the width of the barrier you create with these plants and herbs may have to from centimeters to a few inches thick, and would also need to be placed in the whole garden to leave no wiggle room for the grasshoppers.
Dust the Plants with Flour. Another effective measure is dusting plants with unsalted plain flour. This gums up and clogs the grasshopper’s mouth with sticky flour, which prevents it from eating. As we mentioned before, grasshoppers eat almost of its body weight per day so imagine the devastating effect flour can have on the grasshopper population. Just an important reminder when you use this method is to make sure you are only using ordinary all-purpose flour because there are many types of flour you can find in your grocery, such as self-rising flour, which contains salts that could destroy plants in the garden.
Introduce Beneficial Insects. Beneficial insects are natural predators for pests like grasshoppers and they feed on the grasshoppers. For the most part, they leave your garden alone. So please consider the presence of beneficial insects like spiders, praying mantis, and beetles.
Set up a Long Grass Trap. Grasshoppers love to stay in the long grass. Allow a patch of grass to grow uncut in an isolated area of the backyard. If it goes to plan, more of the grasshoppers will hang around that area. This will make it a lot easier for you to control the grasshopper population in the garden.
Kaolin Clay. Kaolin clay is a naturally occurring clay substance that is mostly found in soils that have developed from the chemical weathering of rocks in hot, moist climates. It has unique chemical and physical properties that contribute to the prevention of grasshopper reproduction.
This is a newer way of treating your grasshopper problems in the garden. To prepare this mixture, simply add 1 to 2 cups (240 to 480 ml) of the powdered clay in a 3.8L of water with about one teaspoon (5 ml) of soap, such as a mild dishwashing soap.
And to make the mixing easier, the Kaolin clay should be slowly added to a cup or two (240 to 480 ml) of water first to make a paste (with the soap), and then added to the rest of the gallon (3.8 l) of water.
This may require more than one application, depending on the concentration of clay in the spray. Though most people find this treatment nasty because of the leaf coating that it may leave in your plants, others still appreciate its effectivity.
Animals that Help Get Rid of Grasshoppers
As herbivores, grasshoppers spend much of their time grazing and searching for flowers, seeds, leaves and stems from eating. Their bright green bodies help them blend in with foliage. Some species purposely consume toxins in their diets, producing vibrant coloring that warns potential predators to find tastier prey elsewhere.
So what eats grasshoppers? If you want to get rid of grasshoppers in your garden, chickens, turkeys, and guinea pigs and hens are your best bet. These creatures may take a bite of your flowers or vegetables now and then, but they will eradicate those destructive grasshoppers.
Grasshoppers are often hunted by larger insects including; praying mantises, dragonflies, crickets, and yellow jackets while rummaging or hiding near meadows and grassy marshes. A wide range of birds, including blackbirds, hawks and blue jays, can also swoop in and catch grasshoppers. During gnawing, chickens and wild turkeys may snatch up unsuspecting insects. Large fish, such as bass, when traveling close to the water’s edge, can even swallow up grasshoppers.
Depending on their geographical location, grasshoppers may be eaten by local rodents and small and medium-sized mammals, including raccoons, shrews, big brown bats, and opossums. Grasshoppers under attack may use their long, springy legs to leap away from predators.
Grasshoppers are worst known for the damage they do while eating, considering they have strong chewing mouth parts, along with frightful appetites. They’re also have been known to clear acres of crops, wild terrain, and urban landscaping. While most of the time they appear to eat whatever is in their path.
So, if you are an avid gardener which experiences grasshopper damage and activity every year, you most likely have a local population which needs to be eradicated. At the end of the day, the key to successful grasshopper control is the timing of treatments. The timing of your treatments is dependent on which type of grasshopper problem you are experiencing.