Grasshopper crop likely to be hopping

Posted 3/29/09

Grasshopper season is not here yet, but judging from last summer’s population in our garden there may be a big crop. Grasshoppers increase …

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Grasshopper crop likely to be hopping


Grasshopper season is not here yet, but judging from last summer’s population in our garden there may be a big crop. Grasshoppers increase gradually over several years. Then in favorable conditions they increase in massive numbers. One female can lay as many as 400 eggs and even if small numbers survive, the result will be legions of grasshoppers.

There are many species of grasshoppers in Colorado. The most widespread and the most destructive is the Migratory grasshopper (Melanoplus sanguinipes). He is about one inch long with a black patch on the neck. He prefers grains and grasses. But if the food supplies run out, he will devour anything in his path.

Grasshoppers emerge in mid June to early July when the eggs have hatched. Most of the grasshoppers in Colorado lay their eggs in late fall. These eggs remain in the soil all winter and hatch in spring or early summer and are adults by mid summer. A few species will lay their egg in the summer. Then in August they hatch and spend the winter as nymphs, immature grasshoppers. These nymphs become adults much sooner.

According to Dr. Whitney S. Cranshaw and John L. Capinera, “Grasshoppers breed and develop each year in dry, undisturbed sites such as pastures, empty lots and roadsides. As the plants in these areas dry out or are eaten, the grasshoppers move to the lusher growth found in yards and gardens. Successful management of grasshoppers must include the breeding areas.”

Enemies of grasshoppers: Birds, rodents, spiders, skunks, flies and horsehair worms.

It is possible to slow down the movement of grasshoppers in your yard, by watering the breeding ground to promote green growth and by leaving a barrier strip of weeds and grass around your yard to concentrate the grasshopper population. Treat these strips with insecticide for greater control.

Highly effective insecticides against grasshoppers can be purchased at any garden shop. Pick insecticides that are labeled for grasshoppers and for specific locations, such as rangelands pastures or specific plants that are in your garden. Remember, insecticides are poisonous and can be toxic to animals and beneficial insects. Always read, understand and follow all label instructions.

The Colorado State University, Colorado Master Gardener Program volunteer network strives to enhance Coloradans’ quality of life by extending knowledge-based education throughout Colorado communities to foster successful gardeners. For information call the CSU Extension, Elbert County Master Gardener office at 303-621-3162. Fact Sheet 5.535: Grasshoppers in Field Crops and Fact Sheet 5.536: Grasshopper Control in Gardens and Small Acreage.

Aija Tobiss is a Colorado Master Gardener.


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