The summer heat in Kansas can be oppressive.
The sun bakes the soil while the water we apply evaporates. By August, many of our plants are barely hanging on while one insect pest will thrive: grasshoppers.
Here are some tips in battling the pests:
There are more than 115 different species of grasshoppers in Kansas. Ironically, only five of those are considered to be serious pests to vegetable crops. Those include red-legged, migratory, Packard, differential and two-striped. The latter two are grasshoppers 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, the eggs hatch and tiny immature grasshoppers emerge and begin feeding. There generally is 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 broad-leaved plants. Grasshoppers remain in hatching areas as long as host plants provide an acceptable food source. However, when the food is 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. In years of drought, hoppers can invade your irrigated flowerbeds and vegetable gardens.
Gardeners get alarmed when grasshoppers suddenly appear and begin feeding. They become more frustrated when hoppers continue to jump about after a spraying. The spray likely killed those insects it hit, but new ones have moved in. The secret to successful control is to begin early in the season. Older grasshoppers cause more damage and are difficult to control. Products such as Sevin, diazinon, esfenvalerate, malathion, and parathion all are labeled for use on grasshoppers. Remember, these chemicals can kill target insects as well. Be careful when spraying vegetable and butterfly gardens.
- 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.