Grasshopper populations are cyclic, and when their numbers peak, these pests will eat nearly any plant they encounter, wiping out entire gardens and fields. In vegetable gardens, they particularly favor lettuce, carrots, beans, sweet corn and onions. Initial signs of feeding by young grasshoppers are jagged and tattered holes chewed in leaves.
There are many species of grasshoppers in North America, and about 30 of these qualify as garden pests. All species and most stages of grasshoppers look essentially the same: Long narrow bodies, with angled back legs suited to jumping, and a head featuring large eyes and chewing mouthparts. Most grasshoppers overwinter as eggs in the soil. In spring, wingless juveniles hatch and feed on tender foliage near the soil surface. They molt and reach the adult phase within a few weeks. Adults are winged and can travel great distances to feed. There are usually one or two generations per year. Grasshopper damage is most severe in the center of the country, in a band extending from Minnesota and Montana in the north to Texas and New Mexico in the south.
Prevention and Control
- Cover plants with garden fabric to prevent nymphs and adults from feeding.
- Encourage natural enemies of grasshoppers including birds, ground beetles, and blister beetle larvae.
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