Grasshoppers and locusts are some of the most damaging pests around today. They are hard to eradicate since they are so mobile – and they can occur in huge numbers. Yet grasshoppers symbolize luck and courage, intuition, fertility, joy, and honor!
Grasshoppers are the most voracious above-ground eaters of grass and vegetation. Also, they are prey for other animals that might attack your crops. The locust plague of the bible is not the only plague of locusts – they can still do immense damage, destroying crops and leading to famine.
So how do you get rid of grasshoppers: we have reviewed the literature to find the best insecticide for grasshoppers, and here are our recommendations:
- Safer Brand 5118-6 Insect Killing Soap Concentrate
- EcoSMART Insect Killer Granules
- Organic Neem Bliss 100% Pure Cold Pressed Neem Seed Oil
- Garlic Barrier Insect Repellent
- Sevin Ready-to-Use 5 Percentage Dust, 3 Pack
What Differentiates Grasshoppers from Locusts?
Locusts and grasshoppers look very similar, but grasshoppers generally live relatively solitary lives. Locusts, however, can change from a solitary existence to a gregarious one, which is when we see the terrible destructive swarms.
How does the locust change? When they rub their back legs against one another, the serotonin produced is the cause for the color change, increased appetite, increased wing size, and faster breeding in a locust. If there are many contacts, swarming can result.
These swarms of locusts can completely strip a crop of all foliage, and if food is then scarce, they can even eat any dead grasshoppers left.
But grasshoppers can themselves cause enormous amounts of damage in your fields and yards – and there are many varieties to contend with – to see more, take a look at this short video here:
How Many Types of Grasshopper Are There?
There are over 100 species of grasshoppers. Here are some of the most common:
- Differential grasshopper – one of the biggest grasshoppers and the earliest to arrive
- Migratory grasshopper –can fly long distance and cause significant damage
- Two-striped grasshopper – a very common grasshopper, tends to hatch late spring after many of the other species of grasshopper
- Red-legged grasshopper – likes moist sites
- Clear-winged grasshopper –an early arrival that feeds exclusively on grass
The different grasshoppers vary in how much damage they cause, the time they arrive, and their preferred choice of plant food. Some cause more problems than others. There are periodic outbreaks – and they continue to munch their way through your crops until the early frosts.
What is the Life Cycle of the Grasshopper?
Grasshoppers lay their eggs in clusters in the soil. For most grasshoppers, the eggs overwinter in the earth before the grasshopper nymph hatches out in mid to late spring. The tiny baby grasshoppers come to the surface and look for tender shoots to eat. They are vulnerable to adverse conditions and very hungry. The survivors molt five or six times before reaching the adult stage in late summer. Adult grasshoppers can live for months, feeding, mating, and laying eggs, and die out in early august except for a few species like the speckled-winged grasshopper this spends winter as a nymph, only reaching adulthood in late winter.
You can see a video of 10 facts about grasshoppers here:
How to Get Rid of Grasshoppers
Are There Any Non-Chemical Forms of Grasshopper Control?
You cannot control the weather, which is the main risk to grasshoppers!
Some insects feed on grasshoppers – for example, blister beetles and robber flies. Birds such as kestrels and larks may also find grasshoppers a tasty snack, as do coyotes. But you do not control these either!
Grasshoppers can also succumb to fungal disease and nematode parasites, especially in wet weather.
So what can you try?
- Garlic – grasshoppers loathe the taste and smell of garlic. You can make a garlic spray with water or plant garlic plants.
- Vinegar – distilled white vinegar might eliminate grasshoppers and can be helpful inside your home (especially when it comes to cleaning). Three parts water to one part apple cider vinegar plus pure soap flakes can make an effective spray for your garden. Use it in the early morning.
- Soapy solution – toss the grasshoppers into a soapy solution, and they will drown. However, this can be time-consuming and is only suitable for a small number of insects.
Chemical Control of Grasshoppers
Insecticides are the main methods of grasshopper control. The aim is to reduce the number of grasshoppers rather than eradicate them. By doing this, you can conserve their natural enemies and beneficial insects.
In the western USA, the USDA-APHIS-PPQ conducts surveys of grasshopper populations every year to determine the risk of an outbreak for the following year.
Many insect sprays or baits are effective against grasshoppers. These include those containing malathion, carbaryl, permethrin, and bifenthrin; all are potent insecticides. For commercial-scale application, an insect growth regulator, diflubenzuron (Dimilin), is available. When you add canola oil to the insecticide, it makes the treated foliage more attractive to the feeding grasshoppers.
Many of the organic insecticides contain essential oils. These might be a hazard for cats since cats lack a specific enzyme found in the liver to detoxify the oils – plus, they are small creatures and have a habit of grooming themselves and so they may ingest essential oils from their fur. Cat lovers can find more information here.
Apply insecticides during the juvenile stages of grasshopper development – it is harder to eradicate the adult grasshopper. Early May to early June is the best time depending upon your locality.
Since the grasshoppers are very mobile, you do not need to treat the whole of the area. If a large area is affected, then you might like to try communal efforts of grasshopper control.
There are three ways to control grasshopper populations: sprays, baits, and dust.
Sprays are cheaper than baits and dust, but you will need a suitable sprayer.
Sprays kill on contact or when grasshopper eats the treated leaves or grass. It is recommended that you do not use certain sprays on plants intended to be eaten by humans. It is always essential to read the product label – whatever kind of pesticide you use.
Baits consist of the insecticide mixed with bran or other food sources. They commonly contain carbaryl or Nosema locustae, a natural pathogen specific to grasshoppers. Baits need reapplying every week and after any rainfall.
Like baits, these grasshopper dust need to be reapplied every week and after rain. (And should not be allowed to blow away!)
Safer Brand 5118-6 Insect Killing Soap Concentrate
Natural ingredients but a powerful pesticide.
Safer Brand specializes in ecologically non-harmful pesticides. With their insecticidal soap killing on contact due to potassium salts in the solution. This insecticide weakens the insect’s waxy coating, penetrates their cellular membranes, and causes them to dehydrate and die.
This 16 fluid ounce concentrate makes up to 6 gallons to be applied by your sprayer – one part of the product mixed with 50 parts of water. You can then store any remaining mix for future use.
It is OMRI listed and approved for organic gardening. It does not hang around in the environment, and you may need several applications at weekly intervals to control the grasshoppers. It is safe to spray on your fruit and vegetables and will not harm children or pets. Make sure not to spray your plants in the hottest part of the day to avoid leaf burn.
- The manufacturer says it is safe for children and pets
- Non-toxic to beneficial insects
- Powerful grasshopper killer
- Repeated spraying might be needed
EcoSMART Insect Killer Granules
Organic granules for smart grasshopper control.
EcoSmart granules contain 2% Clove Oil; 0.6% Thyme Oil, which will kill the grasshoppers and many other insect pests. The manufacturers say it is safe for pets, including cats, provided you follow the instructions for use. But if you have cats check out the article here.
EcoSmart granules work quickly to eliminate insect pests but leave no residue. The granules need watering lightly into the ground, but the manufacturers state that pets and children can be allowed there once all is dry. This is an environmentally sound insecticide and ideal for grasshopper control in pastures.
- Effective and fast-acting
- Environmentally safe
- Non-toxic to beneficial insects
- If you have cats check out further information
Organic Neem Bliss 100% Pure Cold Pressed Neem Seed Oil
OMRI Listed for Organic Use – but deadly to grasshoppers.
Neem oil has a high Azadirachtin content – and this product is 100% neem oil – effectively making this a great – and safe – grasshopper control agent. You may need to reapply every 7-14 days, depending on how severe your grasshopper infestation is.
The Azadirachtin, however, is moderately toxic to fish and aquatic animals. Therefore any run-off must not be allowed to enter natural water sources, and you should avoid using it during rainfall. The insects have to eat the plants for them to die from this natural insecticide.
Do not worry if the product comes out solid – simply place the container in warm water, which will loosen up the oil. Note that you need to use Neem oil within a day of mixing, and you are advised to test a few leaves from the plants you wish to protect before use. Neem oil is a natural pesticide and does not store well; neither does it like cold weather!
- Non-toxic to bees
- The manufacturer states it is safe for children and pets
- Mildly toxic to aquatic creatures
- It does not store well
Garlic Barrier Insect Repellent
The super-garlic perfect grasshopper repellent.
This product is not a pesticide – it kills nothing – but it has come onto the list of the best insecticide for grasshoppers because they hate the smell – and this concentrate is much more potent than the garlic you can buy at the grocers. And one application lasts 3-4 weeks.
This extract is completely safe for children, pets, and fish. It is OMRI registered, so safe to use on edible crops. There are no fumes, no chemicals, yet it successfully repels many other insect pests.
- Safe for children and pets
- Safe for aquatic animals
- Safe for edible plants
- Repels but does not kill
Sevin Ready-to-Use 5 Percentage Dust
A ready to use, insecticidal dust.
Sevin also makes a spray and granules that are effective against grasshoppers. All their products are non-systemic insecticides. In other words, the plant does not absorb the insecticide, it stays on the surface, and when the grasshopper comes into contact with it – they die.
The active ingredient of the spray is carbaryl. Once the dust has settled down, the manufacturers say it is safe for children and pets to re-enter the area – but read the instructions first! It is wise to apply the dust when it is not windy – often early morning or evening. Not only will careful application prevent it from being blow away, but it also limits contact with bees and other beneficial insects, who are most active during the day.
- Easy to use
- Only slightly toxic to birds
- Highly toxic to earthworms and fish
- Highly toxic to bees
As we are becoming more aware of the environmental effects of powerful insecticides, manufacturers are creating products with this in mind. We couldn’t resist the super-garlic insect repellent; even though it does not kill the grasshoppers but repels them – it does give grasshopper control for 3-4 weeks.
The problem with the Sevin dust is that it kills bees, but it is an effective grasshopper killer, so you would need to take precautions to minimize the effect on bees. As ever, the manufacturers supply instructions for the optimal way to use their insecticides.
- Protect Plants from Insects - Kills a variety of soft-bodied insect pests, including aphids, mealybugs, whiteflies, leafhopper, spider mites, and more
- Gentle on Most Plants - Ideal for use on flowers, herbs vegetable, houseplants, lawn, tree, shrubs, and more
- Kills On Contact - Potassium salts of fatty acids weaken insects' outer shell, dehydrating them and killing on contact
- Use Throughout the Season - Spray plants at the first sign of damage and every 5-7 days while insects are present. Can de used up until the day of harvest
- Peace of Mind – This spray is OMRI Listed and compliant for use in organic gardening so you can use it without worry
The natural sprays and granules need repeated applications. Still, they do not harm pollinating insects like bees, nor do they affect earthworms, and for that reason, the Safer 5118-6 Insect Killing Soap Concentrate - Insecticidal Soap for Plants - Kills Aphids, Whiteflies, Thrips, Spider Mites, and More - OMRI Listed for Organic Use comes as our first choice for grasshopper control.
Which chemicals used in insecticides are toxic to bees and earthworms?
Many chemicals used in pesticides also kill off the bee. These include carbaryl (Sevin), Diazinon and bendiocarb (Turcam), malathion, and Imidacloprid which is neuro-toxic – it attacks the nervous system of all animals, including worms and beneficial insects such as bees and ladybirds.
What is Nosema Locustae?
Nosema locustae is a protozoan that may be present in baits as a biological control. It only affects grasshoppers and may be used for treating the breeding sites of grasshoppers – trade names NOLO Bait or Semaspore.