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Found throughout North America, the 200+ species of grasshoppers range in size from 1" to 2 1/2" and in color from brown to yellow to the familiar green. Some do not fly at all although some are excellent flyers and all have enlarged hind leg bones that enable them to leap and jump over relatively huge "insect" distances.
Damage In the Garden or Field
Adult grasshoppers will eat almost any kind of vegetation in the home garden, using chewing mouthparts to munch on leaves and flowers of their favorites; young carrots, beans, corn, lettuce and onions.
A perfect storm of optimal weather mixed with food availability and reproductive frenzy may cause adult grasshoppers to fly up to 15 miles per day, swarming en masse in a migratory march for food, causing massive crop devastation and economic loss to grass and cereal crops as well as any home gardens unlucky enough to be in the flight path.
Unless their populations are very high, grasshoppers will usually be held in check by their natural predators; various beetles and their larvae, flies, birds, nematodes and fungus. Otherwise, individuals may be hand-picked and destroyed, metal mesh netting draped over plants or chickens and guineas loosed into the garden, although fowl may also dine on garden plants. Setting a "trap" strip of lush unmowed, yet irrigated grass, around the perimeter of the garden may serve to keep out grasshoppers while encouraging beneficial insects and birds.
Pest control of grasshopper populations is paramount to producing a bountiful, organic home garden, as once a high population of these pests is established, nothing is effective against them, even the most potent, toxic insecticides. At that point, all the gardener can do is to pray for cold weather (which will kill the bugs) and start planning for this year's cool season or next year's spring garden.