Try to enlist an enemy to control the old enemy
Grasshoppers are among the summer pests that exasperate gardeners because they can level plants in record time. Dating back to the Early Triassic, around 250 million years ago, they have become powerful survivors and can be difficult to control or eliminate.
If you’re looking for an organic way to control them, try attracting birds, snakes, or praying mantises, all of which feed on grasshoppers. Since grasshopper eggs overwinter in the ground, you can till your soil in mid-summer, fall, and early spring to help eliminate the eggs.
Keep weeds at bay to limit available food supply. If your garden is near a pasture or meadow, try mowing or plowing a strip about 6 feet wide around it to keep grasshoppers in line. If you’ve ever thought about raising chickens, now would be a good time to start because chickens, ducks, and geese love to eat grasshoppers. As few as two or three birds will work well to effectively control grasshopper populations.
Unfortunately the best product, Nolo Bait, is not available this year. The M&R plant in Durango burned down a few years ago and the company is struggling to replenish supplies. Nolo Bait is a biological insecticide containing a natural spore called Nosema locustae which infects grasshoppers. Young grasshoppers are attracted to wheat bran flakes, so they use them as a carrier. Once ingested, the disease the spores are carrying are activated and work to kill them, suppressing the population. It is especially effective when used on young grasshoppers, which is why it is important to get it out early in the season before they become adults. Keep this product in mind when it becomes available next year.
The second best line of defense is a product called Eight. eight is Bonide‘s answer to old gardener friend Sevin, and it’s available in dust or granular form.
The active ingredient is different in each product. The active ingredient in Eight Dust is permethrin, but the active ingredient in Eight Granules is bifenthrin. Both are part of the pyrethroid insecticide family, which are synthetic pesticides formulated to copy pyrethrins which are a natural pesticidal chemical found in chrysanthemum flowers. So what is the difference?
Permethrin acts faster on grasshoppers and insects that come into contact with this dust will quickly show signs of paralysis. The effects of permethrin are more short-term, and it only stays active for up to about 30 days in your garden, as sunlight and soil microorganisms work to break it down. So if you want an immediate kill but are willing to reapply it more often, pick dust.
If you use the eight granules that contain bifenthrin as an active ingredient, it will take a little longer to see a noticeable effect on baby insects and even longer for adults. However, bifenthrin has a much longer residual effect and can be effective for up to 90 days in your yard and garden. If you don’t care how quickly it works but don’t want to have to reapply it in the summer months, choose granules.
Plagues of locusts were mentioned in biblical times as causing famines back then, so rest assured, because you are not the only one who has had to deal with these pests. The trick is to get them under control quickly before these voracious little green plant-eating creatures destroy your garden and crops.
Gail Vanik can be reached at 970-565-8274 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.