CO-Horts Blog

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Hoppin' to it with grasshopper control


Posted by Todd Hagenbuch, Routt County CSU Extension

You’re wondering why an Extension blogger from Routt County, of all places, is submitting a piece on grasshoppers, right? Surely our area, home to amazing snows, Ski Town USA, and pristine, green hay meadows doesn’t worry about hoppers, right? Wrong. Look at this map of the state and you’ll see that our gardeners, ranchers, and wildlife managers all have to deal with the impacts of grasshoppers and the damage they cause more than most of the state.

2021 USDA Colorado Grasshopper Count
You might also be wondering where the data on the map came from. Did you know that the USDA counts grasshoppers on range and cropland to figure out how many there are in areas of the state? In NW Colorado, that job has been done for years by two people who are also Colorado Master Gardeners. As people who understand plants and insects, the two different CMGs who have done this job have been key to the Routt County Extension Office helping local landowners decide if and when they should apply control measures.

Control measures are generally recommended in crops and in range if numbers exceed 15 grasshoppers per square yard. Today my CMG friend and USDA grasshopper counted 43 hopper nymphs per square yard (!) at one site, and another intrepid CMG shared the photo below of hoppers in a dog park in Steamboat Springs. How many nymphs can you count in this area, which is just over a square yard?!?

How many nymphs can you count in this square yard?
Photo Courtesy CMG Donna Segale
As a gardener, you know that just a few hoppers can cause a lot of damage, especially after they’ve molted several times and have become ravenous adults. Large-scale spraying efforts, like I’m recommending for rural landowners and ag producers in Routt County, isn’t as desirable for garden situations, especially if you’re growing veggies. That begs the question: what can I do as a gardener when the swarm is heading my way?

Granular baits laced with insecticides are one way to help control grasshoppers. When the insect eats the bait, they die and become part of the organic matter of your garden. As there is still insecticide involved, however, some folks would like another option. Covering your garden, or at least the rows in it with a lightweight, floating row cover is an excellent measure, making sure hoppers can’t get in but light and air can.

One of the most unusual but coolest control measures I’ve seen involved a two-fence approach, where the garden was located inside a fenced area with another fence located about 15’ outside the inner fence. Each fence was about 6’ tall and not only kept elk and deer out of the garden, but the area between the fences housed about 50 hens who patrolled the area. As hoppers flew in, they were immediately gobbled up by the chickens and rarely got as far as the garden. The ‘chicken moat,’ as the owner called it, was a creative, useful idea that brings me a smile every time I think about it.

If you have grasshoppers, think about creative ways you can limit the damage they do to your yard, garden, or property because they can be a formidable enemy. Also, for more information on grasshopper control, hop on over to CSU Fact Sheets 5.536 and 5.535 to learn more ways to keep this insect at bay.

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