Grasshoppers are a pretty common sight each summer. You have probably seen them hopping around your yard or heard them chirping out their songs. If you have a garden, you may have also noticed bug damage left behind by your hungry resident grasshoppers. So, you may be wondering: are grasshoppers helpful or harmful?
Keep reading as we explore the answer to this question and what you can do to keep your grasshopper populations from growing out of control.
What You'll Learn Today
Are Grasshoppers Helpful or Harmful?
There are as many as 20,000 species of grasshopper in the world. With this in mind, it’s impossible to make a blanket statement about whether or not they are helpful or harmful.
All grasshoppers eat plant matter, with most consuming around 16 times their own weight in food each day. Some eat more, while others eat less.
In addition, not all grasshoppers eat the same kind of plants. Some, such as those that morph into locusts, can be extremely damaging to crops; others feed almost exclusively on grass.
Generally speaking, grasshoppers are considered pests. But unless you have a large infestation of them munching away on your garden veggies, you’re probably not going to notice too many negative effects from them.
How Are Grasshoppers Helpful?
Grasshoppers aren’t known for their pollination skills, but they can sometimes be helpful in other ways.
Many birds and animals eat grasshoppers as a staple food source. These include rodents such as moles and rats and birds such as chickens and crested flycatchers.
So, as part of the food chain, the existence of grasshoppers supports a natural balance in their native environments.
What’s more, in some parts of the world, people eat grasshoppers as well. They are a good survival food in some areas and considered a tasty delicacy in others.
Finally, the droppings grasshoppers leave behind serve as a natural fertilizer for the soil, enriching it and enabling future plant growth by restoring precious nutrients.
How Are Grasshoppers Harmful?
As mentioned above, grasshoppers eat lots and lots of plant material.
Most of the time, they are loners, so you won’t have to worry about too many of them congregating in your yard or garden. That said, even a few grasshoppers can produce significant crop damage, especially in times of drought and food shortage.
There are about 20 species of grasshopper in the world that can morph into locusts. When they do this, they will swarm together by the thousands, if not millions, devouring all plant life in their path.
While this destructive example doesn’t happen very often, it gives you an idea of just how harmful some types of grasshoppers can become.
Check out this video to learn more about how grasshoppers turn into locusts:
How to Stop Grasshoppers From Eating Your Plants
The good news is that the vast majority of grasshoppers in the world can’t turn into locusts–and even those that can rarely do.
Still, if you end up with too many grasshoppers in your yard or garden, there’s a good chance you’ll start to notice the damage their voracious appetites leave behind.
If you’re worried about the grasshopper populations in your yard, there are several things you can do to get rid of the annoying bugs.
Plants They Don’t Like
Some plants act as natural repellents for grasshoppers and other insects. If you have a bug problem in your garden, the solution may be as simple as adding in some of these helpful plants.
Garlic is one of the best natural grasshopper deterrents. You can grow garlic in your garden or create a spray, using steeped garlic or garlic oil, to spritz over any plants you want to protect from grasshoppers.
Other plants grasshoppers don’t like include verbena, lilac, forsythia, tomatoes, peas, and squash. If possible, plant some of these helpful plants in and around your garden to send grasshoppers looking for new territory.
As noted above, there are birds and other animals that rely on grasshoppers as a food source. Introducing some of these animals to your property may help to bring your grasshopper populations under control naturally.
Of course, you’ll want to be selective about the types of animals you introduce. You wouldn’t want to replace your grasshopper problem with an infestation of rats, for example.
If you have a pond or other water source on your property, you could introduce some frogs to the area. Frogs eat a wide variety of insects, and many of them seem to especially enjoy grasshoppers.
You may also want to think about investing in chickens. Not only will they provide you with your own farm-raised eggs, but they will also chow down on grasshoppers and any other pest insects in your yard.
Finally, you can put up birdhouses and feeders to try and attract various bird species. Many birds like to eat both plant matter and insects, and quite a few specifically seem to have a taste for grasshoppers.
Repellents and Insecticides
If you’re still having trouble getting rid of the grasshoppers on your property, you can try using a natural insecticide or repellent.
Neem oil works as an excellent repellent for grasshoppers. It keeps them from being able to lay eggs in the area and can even kill adults who ingest it.
You could also try using boric acid, a generally safe product that is extremely deadly to insects. Bear in mind, though, it will kill any insects who come in contact with it, not just grasshoppers.
Some types of insecticides, such as carbaryl or permethrin, can be highly effective against grasshoppers. Exercise caution when using these products however, and make sure not to use anything that will also kill beneficial insects or harm pets or wildlife.
Other Pest Control Methods
You could try tilling your garden each fall, which will discourage grasshoppers from laying their eggs in the disturbed ground.
Sprinkle pure all-purpose wheat flour on any affected plants. This will stick to the mouths of grasshoppers, killing them since they will be unable to eat.
Keep the weeds down around your yard and garden, as this will provide fewer areas for grasshoppers to hide and will eliminate some of their food sources.
You can even introduce select fungi to your yard, though be very careful about doing so. Fungi such as Nosema locustae are available as pest control solutions and will kill many grasshoppers, as well as diminish their ability to reproduce.
Grasshoppers are generally considered pests because they eat large amounts of plant matter. While a few of them won’t cause much of a problem, you may want to take steps to get rid of them if you have an infestation or notice a lot of bug damage in your yard or garden.