Grasshoppers are fairly large insects that are easy for most people to identify. Though they come in many shapes and colors, their signature lines and long legs set them apart from other insects. Though interesting, grasshoppers can be very problematic if there are too many of them in an area. If you have these insects hopping about, it's helpful to learn more about their habits, so you can decide if it's time to explore how to get rid of grasshoppers.

What Are Grasshoppers?

Image via Flickr by functoruser

Grasshoppers are medium to large-sized insects most notable for their ability to jump great distances. A grasshopper can leap as much as 20 times its own body length. These insects can also fly, moving up to eight miles an hour. Grasshoppers are troublesome when they appear in large numbers. One study revealed that just six to seven grasshoppers per square yard spread across 10 acres will eat as much as one cow. If you're dealing with a high grasshopper population, you may need a professional's help.

What Do Grasshoppers Look Like?

Grasshoppers are typically between one and three inches long. The females are larger than the males. They can be green, brown, or black with colorful markings on their wings in shades of blue, orange, yellow, or red. It is typically the male of the species that has these bright markings as a way to attract females. There are about 18,000 species of grasshoppers, so you might find these insects in many different variations.

Grasshoppers have two pairs of wings which sit over the abdomen in a roof-like fashion. The front wings are long, narrow, and tough while the hind wings are wider and more flexible. Their hind legs are very long, allowing them to accomplish their great jumping feats. Males may rub their hind legs along specialized structures on their wings to make audible noises.

Where Do Grasshoppers Live?

Grasshoppers live around the world. The only areas that they cannot inhabit are those with extreme cold at the north and south poles. These insects will live anywhere they can find an abundant source of food. A grasshopper can eat up to 16 times its own body weight. Leaves, grasses, and cereal crops are among their favorite foods.

These insects are most common in the middle of the United States, ranging from Minnesota and Montana to Texas and New Mexico. They enjoy the semi-arid, sub-humid climate.

Problems With Grasshoppers

There are many natural defense mechanisms that a grasshopper will use against predators, but these are ineffective with humans. When touched or captured, grasshoppers can spit a brown liquid known as “tobacco juice” at the attacker. This can help them distract other insects or predators to make a quick escape. Some grasshoppers also eat toxic plants and store the toxins in their bodies, so they themselves are poisonous.

The primary problems caused by grasshoppers relate to their impact on crops. Problems with grasshopper outbreaks usually last from early summer until the first frost of the year, but this varies by climate and species. When grasshoppers are present in peak numbers, they can wipe out entire fields. Gardeners and farmers often count grasshoppers among their top enemies.

Grasshoppers enjoy a wide range of crops including alfalfa, rice, cotton, soybeans, clover, lettuce, carrots, onions, corn, beans, and tobacco. These insects usually avoid tomatoes, squash, and peas.  

Pest Control Solutions for Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers are a difficult insect to control. They're extremely mobile, so you cannot poison a nest as you would with ants. There are several organic measures that you can take to try and control grasshoppers.

If you're wondering how to get rid of grasshoppers without using chemicals, begin by tilling the ground in mid to late summer. This will disturb the areas beneath the soil where females would lay their eggs. Though not a solution for an active infestation, it will prevent future problems when these eggs would hatch in the spring. In early spring, tilling will destroy eggs laid the previous summer.

You can discourage grasshoppers in a garden by covering their preferred plants with cheesecloth. Eliminate weeds anywhere on the property, as these provide food for newly hatched grasshoppers. Predators like birds will help keep grasshopper populations under control. Encourage birds in your area as a way to keep grasshopper numbers down.

If you have a major infestation, you can work with a professional exterminator to control grasshoppers. There are biological and chemical products that will help prevent grasshopper populations from exploding. Insecticides are also available which will kill off grasshoppers more quickly. It's best to have a professional assess the population, species, and damage to come up with a plan that's safest for your area and personal situation.

Other Grasshopper Facts

Grasshoppers are an interesting type of insect when not invading in great numbers. Check out these facts.

Flies Are Their Enemy

As grasshoppers are fairly large, you might think that they have little to fear from other bugs. However, this isn't the case. Flies are one of the greatest enemies of the grasshopper. Flies will lay their eggs on grasshopper nests, where the flies will then feed on the grasshopper eggs after hatching. Some flies will even lay eggs directly on the grasshopper. In these instances, the newborn flies will consume the grasshopper itself when they hatch.

Locusts Are No Different

Many people wonder about the difference between grasshoppers and locusts, but there is none. The pests famous for causing the biblical plague are one and the same with grasshoppers. Locusts are simply a type of grasshopper with short horns.

If you have grasshoppers in your area that are causing notable damage to plants and crops, it's time to speak with an exterminator. We can help you decide how to get rid of grasshoppers on your property and reclaim your garden for yourself.

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