Grasshoppers have been the bane of gardeners for centuries and gardeners are always in search of an effective means of grasshopper control. These insects are responsible for consuming up to 25% of the available forage in the western half of the US each year. That's a lot of food that could have been available to people and livestock.
A heavy grasshopper infestation can reduce a garden to stubble in a matter of days. It's important to stop them in their tracks before the grasshopper population gets out of control and becomes a plague of locusts, but for many gardeners it is out of the question to use chemical pesticides.
Fortunately, there are organic methods of grasshopper control. There are organic products available that will kill grasshoppers before they can destroy crops. These products infect grasshoppers with a naturally occurring disease that is much like a bad case of grasshopper flu. The disease is called Nosema locustae and it infects over 90 species of grasshoppers and also some crickets. People, pets, plants and other insects are not affected by this grasshopper disease.
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Grasshoppers become infected by Nosema locustae in two ways. Those who eat the bait become sick, then they eat less and die, usually within two to four weeks. Other grasshoppers cannibalize the dead grasshoppers and they too become infected and die.
Nosema locustae for grasshopper control is offered for sale in gardening catalogs and garden centers and is sold as Semaspore Bait or NoLo Bait. These products have a short shelf life, about 8 weeks, so buy only as much as you need. It will keep up to 5 months if kept refrigerated.
Apply one pound of bait per acre on a sunny, warm day. This is when grasshoppers are most likely to be hungry. Check the weather report and apply the bait when no rain is expected for at least eight hours so the bait won't get washed away before it can be eaten.
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Grasshoppers breed in grassy areas such as fencerows and unmowed ditches. They generally don't lay their eggs in gardens or tilled fields, but the young will migrate to these areas after hatching. Once temperatures reach 60 to 70 degrees F., grasshoppers will begin to hatch, and they will continue to hatch for up to two months. Ideally, at the first sign of a grasshopper problem, bait is applied to the grassy breeding area to control the population where it starts. It is also helpful to keep a mowed or tilled strip between a potential grasshopper breeding area and your crops or garden. Grasshoppers tend to not leave their breeding area until their population increases, so this clean strip will help to keep them confined until the diseased bait takes affect.
Generally, if grasshoppers were a problem one year, they will also be a problem the next year. If grasshoppers destroyed your garden last year, treat the area this year and save your plants and crops from another plague of grasshoppers.