Grasshoppers belong to the insect order Orthoptera (“straight wing”), a group whose major characteristic is long hind legs, adapted for jumping. Another distinguishing feature is the presence of short antennae; this separates the order from a related order, Grylloptera (crickets, katydids, mole crickets and camel crickets), sometimes confusingly referred to as the “long-horned” grasshoppers.
Grasshopper has been on average, the most economically important pest in Canada; although. The first record of an outbreak from the Prairie Provinces was from Saskatchewan in 1800. Certain species of grasshoppers did not become abundant, however, until about 1900 when road-building; drainage and cultivation in southern Manitoba created favorable breeding sites and greatly increased the abundance of suitable food plants.
Grasslands like American Prairie Reserve are homes to a bounty of insects that help the ecosystem grow and flourish. They also include potentially loss prone insects like grasshoppers. They are mainly grass feeders. Economic damage is primarily to cereals, especially wheat and barley. Native and migratory grasshoppers have together destroyed areas of range grass and hay almost entirely. Grasshopper outbreaks have cost tens of millions of dollars in annual crop damage over the past several years. Grasshoppers and Mormon crickets, today still cause an estimated $1.5 billion in damage to grazing lands in the American West.
Damage to cereal crops is generally concentrated near field margins and is caused when hatchling grasshoppers move out of egg beds into field edges; damage to grasslands tends to be more evenly distributed. Damage to cereals includes leaf notching and stripping but is most costly when stems are severed just below the heads of maturing or mature crops. When grasshopper numbers are extremely high and natural plant hosts in short supply, grasshoppers will consume or attempt to consume any plants or plant products that they come upon during their migrations in search of food. Grasshoppers have a major impact on plants by changing the way nitrogen cycles work in grasslands. The grasshoppers speed up the process of nitrogen recycling by selectively feeding on plants that take longer to decompose, plant production increases. However, if they selectively feed on plants that decompose quickly, nitrogen becomes less available to the soil and plant production decreases.
Grasshoppers are the most difficult insect to control because they are highly mobile. All grasshoppers lay their eggs in soil. There are over 100 species of grasshoppers in Colorado.
During periods when local outbreaks are developing, control usually involves using sprays or baits
Problems tend to increase beginning in early summer and can persist until hard frosts. Among vegetable crops certain plants are favored by the grasshoppers such as lettuce, carrots, beans, sweet corn, and onions. Squash, peas, and tomatoes are among the plants that tend to be avoided. Grasshoppers less commonly feed on leaves of trees and shrubs. However, during outbreak years even these may be damaged. Furthermore, grasshoppers may incidentally damage shelterbelt plantings when they rest on twigs and gnaw on bark, sometimes causing small branches to die back.
Grasshoppers defoliate grasses by direct feeding on leaf and stem tissue and by cutting off leaves or stems and heads while feeding. High populations of grasshoppers on range land can damage plant crowns so severely that many grass plants will not recover. Grasshopper economic thresholds in a cereal crop are typically eight to 12 per sq. meter, but in lentils two grasshoppers are considered too many. As farm commodity prices rise the cost of damage done by individual insects rises along with them, dropping the threshold numbers that dictate when it starts to pay to take action.
Let us look at the following news article:
Grasshoppers devour and damage area north of Chico
Heather Hacking, Chico Enterprise-Record; POSTED: 06/26/15, 2:49 PM PDT | UPDATED: ON 06/26/2015
Baji Hantelman isn’t expecting any red garden tomatoes this year. She’s also not holding her breath for the first fig or nectarine.
Any hopes of backyard produce were dashed when the ground, the trees, the fence posts were found crawling with grasshoppers. After just a few weeks, her garden is nibbled down to sticks and stems.
How many grasshoppers? So many that the critters line the wires of the fences, climb along the side of the house. The bugs are so thick on the driveway Hantelmen hears a distinct “squish” when she backs up her car.
To quantify her misery, she counted the grasshoppers on one square meter of ground. The total was 70.
In addition to the garden, the critters are at work on the 100-year-old almond orchard nearby.
The trouble seems to be isolated to an approximately two-mile area north of Chico, she said, near Meridian Road and east of Highway 99, from Wookey to Munjar roads, she estimated.
This is where Hantelman and her husband Richard Coon own Wookey Ranch. They produce pasture-grown sheep, turkey and hogs.
Normally, the sheep are carefully rotated through the pastures. However the grasshoppers got there first and they’ll need to buy supplemental feed.
The feed bill for turkeys was low for a couple of weeks because the birds were moved across the land and could feast on grasshoppers.
Native Americans in this area are known to have eaten grasshoppers and other insects for protein.
Hantelman said she tried to catch some to fry in an iron skillet, but found them too difficult to catch.
The problem of grasshoppers has happened before, including in 2003. Another grasshopper year was in the 1990s.
Hantelman looked up the particular pests she has come to know well. They are Melanoplus devastator, which seems like an appropriate name. They certainly devastate the plants, she said.
In a normal year, the population of grasshoppers won’t be that large because a wet spring can drown the eggs or damage the nymphs, she explained.
INSECTS COME AND GO
Agricultural Commissioner Richard Price explained that surges in grasshopper populations occur periodically, with a handful of reports this year. The insects lay eggs in the spring. High moisture at the young stages of their development can control the population due to a fungus that occurs in damp soil, Price explained. In these dry times there has not been moisture nor fungus, he said.
In the past, grasshoppers were a problem on the land that is now paved over by the Chico Mall. The mall opened in 1988. Before that the area was burned every once in a while to control the insects, Price said.
To treat grasshoppers, a bait can be used when the creatures are small, he said. But they’re more difficult to control as they reach maturity.
The life cycle of grasshoppers includes egg pouches deposited in moist soil in the spring.
They emerge as little hoppers, without wings, he continued. They go through seven stages, casting their skin each time, and eventually developing wings to fly and mate.
Typically, they’ll eat everything they can until food runs out or it gets too cold, usually about 3-5 months.
“If you think of it from a grasshopper’s viewpoint, they are on the range, things are drying up and there is nothing to eat,” said Steve Heydon, senior scientist at the Bohart Museum of Entomology at UC Davis.
“There’s this house that has a watered garden that’s green and tasty.
“They wander around and when they hit a spot with food, they stay,” Heydon said.
His guess is that more of the eggs survived and hatched last year due to the mild, dry weather.
If its any consolation for Heydon said, the lack of water might mean very few places for the adult grasshoppers to lay their eggs. Next year could be relatively-bug free.
Now that her garden and backyard orchard are stripped, Hantelman has a very clear view of what grasshoppers don’t eat — California bay, manzanita, deer grass, rosemary, sage, marjoram and thyme.
We can see that grasshoppers are a definite cause of worry for cultivators and gardeners all over the world. As mentioned before it is very difficult to implement grasshopper control using insecticides or pesticides as they are extremely mobile and thus difficult to contain.
In such a scenario Combirepel™, a product by C Tech Corporation offers a viable solution. Combirepel™ is a non-toxic, non-hazardous, termite and insect aversive available in liquid as well as masterbatch form. It works on the mechanism of repellence whereby it works in keeping target species like grasshoppers, insect and pests away from the application that needs to be protected. It can be sprayed on the crops and grasses to keep grasshoppers at bay and also foil their attempts at an outbreak!