Ten of the Best Ways to Control Grasshoppers in your Garden ~ without Chemicals
Today’s post was inspired by a question from Sheri, a reader from South Carolina, who is plagued by grasshoppers and locusts in her garden and greenhouse. She’s wondering how to control them without using chemicals and pesticides that could kill the good bugs in her yard.
I have to admit I don’t have much trouble with grasshoppers here in the Northeast, so had to do some research to answer her question. But, I’m definitely prepared if they ever become a problem here, and now you will be too!
When I heard this statistic from Planet Natural, I almost couldn’t believe it: Six to seven grasshoppers per square yard on 10 acres of pasture can eat as much as a cow! Holy cow! (pun intended!)
Let’s start with measures you can take BEFORE hoppers become a problem. Hopefully, this’ll decrease the numbers that actually show up in your garden or greenhouse, and on your plants.
Grasshoppers lay their eggs in late fall, and then the adults die. These eggs overwinter in the soil, then hatch in early spring.
Several sources say that tilling in the fall is recommended, as it brings eggs to the surface and exposes them to weather and predators. However, there are lots of other reasons tilling isn’t a great idea. If you’d like to read why I don’t till my garden, you can do that here.
So, what to do if you aren’t going to till? A thick layer of mulch is almost as effective as tilling, only for the opposite reason. It becomes a physical barrier that won’t allow the baby grasshoppers to get to the surface.
Mulching is simple. A 2″ layer of shredded leaves is all you need to keep the voracious little beasts from surfacing in the spring.
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Floating Row Covers
Placing floating row covers over your plants before you see grasshoppers in the spring can be very effective at excluding them from your plants. This one is a nice, lightweight cover that can be used all summer.
I’ve even heard of people using tulle (you know, like wedding veil material) as row cover. It’s light enough to prevent heat buildup but fine enough to exclude insects. Just remember that you’ll have to weight the edges down to keep the bugs from crawling underneath….and they WILL crawl underneath!
Now let’s talk about a few ways to keep them busy elsewhere, and not with your plants.
Given the choice, grasshoppers are attracted to long grasses and grains. Plants like wheat, rye and Timothy grass will keep the little buggers busy and full and keep them away from your flowers and veggies.
Of course, this assumes you have enough acreage to be able to plant trap crops at some distance from your plants.
If that’s not an option, how about this next one?
Clean Mowed Strip of Death
Ok, well that was a little dramatic, but I wanted to make sure you were still awake!
If you have an area that has long grass (a sunny field, whether big or small), be sure to mow a strip (the wider, the better), between the field and your plants. Grasshoppers don’t like to go across mowed areas as they’re much more vulnerable to predators in closely cropped areas.
Along the same lines, be sure you’re keeping areas around greenhouses and gardens free of long weeds where grasshoppers can hide.
Need a natural weed killer recipe? I found this one over at savvywomensalliance.org. Just mix together 1/2 gallon white vinegar, 1/2 bottle of lemon juice, and 1/2 cup castile soap. Mix together and spray on those pesky weeds!
I haven’t tried the above weed killer yet, but as soon as I get to the grocery store for the necessary ingredients, the weeds in my driveway are going down!!!!
Attract the Grasshoppers’ Natural Predators
And who, you may ask, would that be? Birds!
Bluebirds LOVE grasshoppers, as in, can’t get enough, more, more, MORE! Sparrows are also big grasshopper fans.
The easiest way to attract birds to your garden is, of course, to have bird feeders. As I discussed in my Garden Wildlife Certification post, I keep things simple and feed just black oil sunflower seed and suet.
One note: If you’re feeding the birds so they come and eat your grasshoppers, feed suet all winter to keep the feathered carnivores happy, but when the grasshoppers emerge in the spring, STOP feeding suet so the birds seek out sources of protein on the hoof (ie., your hoppy little frenemies).
Another easy way to attract birds to your garden is through water sources. Multiple bird baths are the easiest way to keep them coming around.
This Amazon page has lots of really nice choices, from inexpensive to rather more expensive, and regular bird baths to fountains, even one that attaches to a deck rail. There’s a really pretty blue hanging glass one that I wouldn’t mind having…..
Or Raise Those Predators Yourself!
Chickens and guinea hens LOVE to snack on grasshoppers and locusts, as well as ticks and other undesirable bugs. Obviously, keeping chickens isn’t a possibility for everyone, but if it’s something you’ve been considering, this is another reason to go for it.
Ok, now what do you do if you’ve already got the little buggers all over your plants? I’ve got just the solution(s) for you!
Hot Garlic Spray
I found two different recipes for a spray to put on your plants to repel grasshoppers. This doesn’t kill or harm them, just repels them.
The simpler one just takes 2 bulbs of garlic and 10 cups of water. Boil these together and let them sit overnight. Dilute your mixture 3 parts water to 1 part garlic mix and you’re ready to go. Spray on the plants the beasties are damaging.
The second one involves taking an onion, a garlic bulb, a teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder and a quart of water. Mix this all up and spray it just like the first one.
NOTE: Neither recipe said anything about crushing the garlic or cutting the onion up first, but I would assume that’s required. I would also say that renewing this after it rains would be a very good idea.
Flour your Flowers!
You can dust your plants with all-purpose flour to get rid of grasshoppers. The reasoning behind this is that the flour gums up their mouthparts and they starve to death.
I have no idea whether this actually works, and I would be a bit leery of it only because I would be afraid the flour could do the same to beneficials such as monarch or swallowtail caterpillars. Proceed at your own risk.
Hand-picking and Drowning
If you’re not squeamish, hand-picking and drowning the grasshoppers in soapy water is an option.
You’ll want to do this first thing in the morning when it’s still cool, as they’ll be slower and easier to catch.
Take a quart mason jar, small bucket or other suitable container and fill it 1/3 full with a mixture of 1 part molasses to 10 parts of water. The grasshoppers will be attracted to the sugar and jump in and drown.
Again, as with the flour, I can see this having the potential to do some damage to bees and other flying pollinators. You’ll have to gauge for yourself whether you’re losing too many bees to drowning with this method.
Scare them to Death!
Ok, I’m just kidding, but this idea is last for a reason: I think it’s a little out there. I’ve seen it recommended that you take the drowned grasshoppers and blend them in a blender (please make sure it’s an old one that you’re not going to use for food anymore!), then strain the resultant liquid and spray it on your plants as a deterrent for their living kin.
Aside from the really major ick factor here, I would be surprised if this one works. If you try it, though, let me know how it goes because I’m curious.
All of the above ideas are relatively harmless and natural, and one or a combination of these should work for average infestations.
If you’ve got a serious infestation, though, you may have to resort to commercial preparations. There are several that are somewhat safer than others, and are considered organic.
Please, though, remember that any commercial spray or preparation carries at least a slight risk of injuring or killing beneficial insects, so should be used only as a last resort, in the smallest amounts possible, and in strict accordance with label directions.
Commercial Sprays/Preparations for Grasshopper Control
I found two commercial preparations that may be worth a look if you’re really desperate.
First, neem oil is an option. Grasshoppers absolutely WILL NOT eat anything sprayed with neem oil. Although most manufacturers say neem oil is perfectly safe for nontarget insects, I still believe it should be used carefully and judiciously.
Second, there’s a product called EcoBran that only damages insects with chewing mouthparts. Obviously, this means it won’t hurt bees, but could hurt caterpillars you don’t want to damage, so again should be used very carefully. This product can also damage aquatic invertebrates, so runoff must be controlled.
I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s post and that it’s been helpful for you! If you try some of these ideas, I’d love for you to comment and let me know how they work. I’ve also included a couple of pinnable images below. Please pin one to your Natural Pest Control or Gardening board for future reference.
Otherwise, as always, thanks for reading, smile and have a crazy organic day!
Posts Related to Grasshopper Control Methods
- Subscribers’ Resource Library
- No-Till Gardening
- Garden Wildlife Certification
- Insanely Useful DIY Recipes for Gardeners
- Shrubs and Bushes to Attract Pollinators
- Beneficial Predatory Insects