Archive for Sunday, July 28, 2002

Hoppers cause havoc

July 28, 2002


The summer heat is nothing short of oppressive. What little water we are able to apply only evaporates as the sun bakes the soil.

Although many of our plants are barely hanging on, one insect pest is thriving grasshoppers. Grasshoppers can be a thorn in any flower garden.

Here are some helpful tips that might give you the upper hand if you are battling this ferocious pest in your landscape.

There are more than 115 different species of grasshoppers in Kansas. Ironically, of those, only five are considered to be serious pests to vegetable crops. Those include red-legged, migratory, Packard, differential and two-striped. The latter two are the ones most encountered by home gardeners and vegetable growers.

Grasshoppers overwinter in the egg stage. Small pods full of banana-shaped eggs are deposited in the fall and overwinter underground. In the spring of the year, the eggs hatch and tiny immature grasshoppers emerge and begin feeding. There is generally only one generation of hoppers per year.

Most grasshoppers feed on a wide array of hosts. Some feed primarily on different grass species while others prefer broadleaf plants.

Grasshoppers remain in hatching areas as long as host plants provide an acceptable food source. However, when the food is all eaten or dries up, adult grasshoppers can set out in search of new food sources.

Areas of high moisture are usually attractive to the foraging adults. That is why in years of drought, hoppers can invade your irrigated flowerbeds and vegetable gardens.

Gardeners get alarmed when grasshoppers suddenly appear and begin feeding. They get even more frustrated when after spraying, there are still live, healthy hoppers jumping about. More likely than not, the spray killed those insects it hit, and new ones have moved in.

The secret to successful control is to begin early in the season. The older grasshoppers get, the more damage they cause and the more difficult they are to control. Products such as Sevin, Diazinon, esfenvalerate, malathion and parathion are labeled for use on grasshoppers.

Remember, however, these chemicals can and also will kill target insects as well. Be careful when spraying vegetable and butterfly gardens. Last but not least, always read and follow label directions.

Bruce Chladny is horticulture agent at K-State Research and Extension-Douglas County. For more information, call him at 843-7058 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

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