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Gardening with Deb: Again with the grasshoppers

Deb Babcock
Babcock_Deb

Grasshopper workshop

What: Colorado State University entomologist Bob Hammon will present information on grasshoppers and grasshopper control.

Where: Steamboat Springs Community Center

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

In 2009 and 2010, The Routt County Extension office fielded many reports of grasshopper infestations, and the calls started coming in again last summer. In areas around Elk Mountain, along RCR 44, 129 into Clark and along Twentymile Road, the infestation was as bad as many of us have seen it. Chances are with the dry winter we’ve had, it may be bad again this summer.

Each year, it seems the Yampa Valley has infestations with not one, but several, varieties of grasshoppers, each with a different life cycle. Needless to say, it is a challenge for gardeners to control damage to their plants from these voracious pests.

Since grasshoppers tend to infest an area for a three- to four-year cycle, chances are that different parts of the valley can expect to see repeat infestations that started in previous years, while other parts of the valley will notice a lessening of the pests. So I guess it’s our turn again in north Routt County.



We didn’t experience a dry, warm May followed by a cool, wet June, which might have kept the population down. Instead, it was the opposite this year. So grasshopper hatchlings had perfect weather to grow.

So what can home gardeners do to lessen hopper damage to prized plants?



Keep an eye out for grasshoppers hatching. They will be crawling along the ground, not hopping. It’s easier and more efficient to try to control grasshoppers when they are young. At those early larval stages, they are more concentrated, and it’s possible to treat a smaller area and still get good control.

A microbial insecticide known by trade names as Semaspore® or NoLo Bait® is only effective against these young grasshoppers. This product requires about two weeks to begin taking effect and must be purchased fresh and used right away. (It has a shelf life of only 90 days.)

The young grasshoppers eat this bait and spread disease to other grasshoppers. While individuals have had success with these products, controlled research studies have shown only a 30- to 40-percent effectiveness at reducing grasshoppers. What’s good about this product is it only works on grasshoppers and some crickets and does not harm birds, bees or butterflies.

As grasshoppers mature and begin heading toward your garden, insecticide treatments will have limited success since there is continual reinvasion by grasshoppers, and the product wears off relatively quickly.

A bran bait product called EcoBran was tested by many of us Master Gardeners several years ago with pretty good success. It targets immature and mature grasshoppers and contains the insecticide carbaryl integrated in bran flakes that are spread on the ground. What I particularly like about this insecticide is both its fast-acting effectiveness (I had overnight results) as well as its relative safety. Bran baits are more effective at controlling grasshoppers than the bacterial insecticides mentioned above.

The dry bran flakes are pretty much a grasshopper-specific killer, while the liquid forms of grasshopper insecticide — acephate (Orthene®), carbaryl (Sevin®), and malathion — which are sprayed directly on plants are also effective, but will harm beneficial bees, flies, butterflies and hummingbirds who drink plant nectar from sprayed plants. They also leave residue on edible plants that can be harmful to humans. It’s best to spray these insecticides at night or early morning when bees, flies and butterflies are less active. Always read and follow label instructions.

Get the jump on these critters before they get the jump on you.

Deb Babcock is a volunteer Master Gardener through the CSU Extension Routt County. No endorsement of products mentioned in this article is intended. Questions? Call 879-0825 or email csumprogram@co.routt.co.us.


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