|Cluster of grasshopper eggs. Photo courtesy of CSU Extension, by permission.|
"Don't count your eggs before they hatch" is sound advice for opportunity seekers. When it comes to pest control in your backyard farm, minimize opportunistic grasshoppers by destroying eggs before they hatch.
Keep an eye out for egg clusters as you dig in your garden this spring. The eggs look like grains of brown rice stuck together.
If you find such a stash, take the time to put it in an airtight container that you later discard. If you leave them be, these eggs can hatch into the garden's most ravaging enemies. According to Planet Natural, a study showed that six adults per square yard on a 10-acre pasture ate as much as a cow.
Because of grasshoppers' mobility, they are extremely hard to control. Strong pesticide sprays will harm bees and other beneficial insects. Natural baits are available, such as those containing Nosema Locustae. Grasshoppers get a spore from ingesting the substance (most types are powder), which causes them to eat less and eventually die. To be effective the bait must be applied to known hatching areas when the grasshoppers are nymphs.
Destroying the eggs you find is a no-cost companion approach to any baits you may try.
Female grasshoppers lay the eggs about an inch underground in late summer/early fall. The eggs survive the winter, hatch in mid to late spring and look for tender foliage. Remove any unwanted plants and cultivate around the ones you keep to turn the soil and expose egg clusters.
Grasshoppers like lettuce, carrots, corn, onions and beans -- leaves and all. Oh, the beans! I can definitely attest to that. They frequent tomato plants, too, where during harvest time I find myself close enough to deliver finger flicks to the head. (Oddly satisfying.) Grasshoppers generally don't like squash and peas as much, although in large population cycles where demand exceeds supply, they may eat anything.
Ducks, guinea fowl and chickens can take a bite out of a grasshopper infestation. Other grasshopper control methods include row covers (although the insects can chew through some fabrics) and trap crops. Plant zinnias around your garden border to attract and divert grasshoppers from pouncing on veggies. Such a grasshopper hangout is a more contained space to use baits.
Handpick and destroy as many grasshoppers as you can. Follow-up egg removal efforts this spring by capturing late-summer mating grasshoppers in the act, thwarting a new generation. These ... um, preoccupied specimens are easier to catch! Yes, I had a picture, and no, I couldn't bring myself to post it. As Jimmy Fallon would say, "Ew."