adult locust

Chewing Pests: Grasshoppers and Locusts


Here’s the latest post from Sheba, our Bees and Bugs Guide…have you wondered about grass hoppers and locusts…those noisy, green things leaping around your vege patch?

Grasshoppers and Locusts are pretty common in most backyards. The “song” of the grasshoppers and crickets is very familiar especially on hot summer nights. These little critters can be easily distinguished by their strong chewing mouthparts and enlarged hind legs designed for jumping. If the population numbers are high enough, grasshoppers and locusts can cause complete defoliation of plants.

So what to look for, as not all grasshoppers are damaging to your vegetable garden:

 

Insect adults about 40mm with a black spot on tip of clear hind wing, X-shaped mark behind the head and red shanks of hind legs.

 Adult Locusts
 nymph  

Nymph locusts resemble adults but have dark shanks and lack wings.

 

[Ref: https://www.agric.wa.gov.au/mycrop/diagnosing-locusts-and-grasshoppers-crops]

 

So how do we control them from our vege-patch? Researching on this vast topic, I certainly came across quite a few different strategies that have been successful at varying degrees. Some I have discussed below:

Biological Control:

  • Birds are the most natural enemies of grasshoppers and locusts. Chickens not only love eating these critters but they can be entertained for hours on end by them as they rummage through the backyard. Alternatively, you could consider running the chook-run along the vegetable garden for as much of the garden perimeter as possible.
  • If chickens are not an option, then encouraging native birds is a good alternative to control grasshopper and locusts numbers. You can attract birds to your garden by providing a good water source and safe and private nesting sites (e.g. native bushes).

Physical Control:

  • One of the simplest ways to manage grasshoppers and locusts in your backyard is to cultivate the soil in spring and then leaving the soil exposed rather than planting straight away. This exposes any eggs to predators.
  • “Planting” a yellow bucket in your vege-patch. This one works as grasshoppers are attracted to yellow colour. According to Greenharvest, leave around 6cm of yellow plastic showing above the mulch. Fill the bucket with water and 10% molasses (sugarcane) solution. The grasshoppers attracted to the colour will jump in but cannot climb back out. Important to cover the solution with a film of canola oil to deter bees and mosquitoes.
  • Chilli spray or garlic spray also serves as a good deterrent. Remember to add a dash of detergent to improve sticking. There are various recipes on the net for a home-made spray.

Least Toxic Chemical:

Commercial growers spray GreenGuardâ (BASF, The Chemical Company). It contains a naturally occurring fungus Metarhizium. It is parasitic to grasshoppers and locusts. With no known problems related to pesticide residue, organic farmers favour it. Unfortunately, in Australia, GreenGuardâ is not yet available in home garden size packs.

 

  • EcoNeem is the alternative organic spray available from Bunnings as a 100ml concentrate. It is very effective as it works in multiple ways. It suppresses insect appetite and it restricts growth. The insect is unable to moult successfully.
  • Pyrethrum insecticides (sold as Yates 3L Pyrethrum insecticide) are effective as a grasshopper control but it may also kill other beneficial insects. So spraying early morning is advised to help reduce impact on non-target insects.
  • Myco-ForceTM is a probiotic given to insect-damaged plants to assist recovery. It contains naturally occurring, bio-balancing fungal species like Metarhizium anisopliae, Beauveria bassiana and Lecanicillium lecanii.

 

So do these strategies work for you? Or do you have some of your own that have been successful in your vege-patch. We would love to hear – comment on FB or Twitter to get in touch.

 

In the meantime,

Happy Gardening.

 

Sheba K