Rural homeowners who remember grasshoppers devouring their gardens last year, or causing other problems, are likely to experience hopper issues again this year, according to University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension Educator Jim Schild.
Their best line of defense, Schild said, is spraying perimeter areas surrounding the “green zones” around homes while the pests are still young.
Grasshopper infestations are most likely at rural acreages or farmsteads surrounded by grassy areas where hoppers laid eggs last year, Schild said. “We suspect that with the dry conditions that the survival rates of those eggs will probably be strong, and the potential for high numbers is looking more favorable with the dry conditions.”
“As rangeland dries up the grasshoppers will key on green areas, and farmsteads and rural acreages are prime targets for grasshopper invasion. The best option is if you have control of surrounding areas to spray some of the rangeland before it totally goes dormant, to control hopper numbers in that area.”
Schild said the key is controlling grasshoppers when they’re young and small, before they are fully developed: “When you see them small, that’s the time to treat.”
Control methods depend on the area sprayed, according to Schild. For trees and ornamentals, a number of systemic insecticides have been labeled for use. But repeated applications will likely be necessary.
“With vegetable gardens, chemical control is pretty limited since we’re also eating the products that grasshoppers are eating,” he said. Systemic insecticides are not an option, so contact insecticides must be used. They are generally not as effective as systemic products, so Schild said applying Sevin bait around the perimeter of a garden may be another option.
A non-chemical means of control is keeping chickens or other fowl that will go after grasshoppers.
In any event, Schild said homeowners should keep safety in mind. Those who have chickens should avoid using chemicals nearby. And when using chemicals, always read and follow label instructions.
People who live in towns and villages aren’t likely to have as severe grasshopper problems as rural residents. But Schild said spraying gardens also is an option for them.