I once read in a gardening book that grasshoppers are usually present but don’t do much in the way of damage. I thought, “You have got to be kidding! There is a place on earth where grasshoppers don’t do damage?!” If there is a place- it is certainly not in Texas. Here, grasshoppers give a very living example of the plague that Moses sent on the Egyptians. The grasshopper will eat any vegetation in site and leave nothing but skeletal stalks behind. And once the grasshopper has matured, poisons will not kill them.
So what to do? I have found NOLO Bait to be very effective. NOLO Bait is bran flakes coated in Nosema locustae- a microbial agent that infects only grasshoppers and either kills them or makes them too sick to eat. This is awesome! Then, the healthy grasshoppers move in and eat the sick ones (grasshoppers are cannibalistic) and then they get sick further spreading the disease. All the while, no other good bug or bee or humming bird is bothered by this illness.
So how is this accomplished, exactly?
From the website: http://www.goodbug.com/nolobait.html#HowWork
Once the Paranosema (Nosema) locustae spores are ingested by the grasshopper they become activated in the grasshopper’s mid-gut. The spores germinate or extrude a filament from the cell wall. In the process of extruding this filament, the spores pierce the mid-gut wall of the grasshopper and in very young grasshoppers death usually occurs very quickly. This is due to septicemia or bacteria invading the grasshopper and causing death. In more mature grasshoppers the spores continue to reproduce, utilizing the fat body of the grasshopper for energy. As the Paranosema (Nosema) locustae population increases inside the grasshopper it becomes lethargic, reduces its feeding and has lowered reproduction capability. In addition, grasshoppers are quite cannibalistic and healthy grasshoppers will feed on their slow, sickly companions. This enables the Paranosema (Nosema) locustae to spread throughout the population and infect other grasshoppers that migrate into the area. Infected female grasshoppers can also pass the infection along in the sticky substance that surrounds the egg pods. As the newly hatching grasshoppers chew their way out of the egg pod they also become infected and will mostly likely die before reaching the first molt.
The grasshoppers love the bran- it’s like crack cocaine for them. Once you spread the bait out on your plants you will see them feeding heavily. You will also see a lot of damage in that area to the plants at first. The picture above is the first area I spread the bait this year and the grasshoppers have fed there the most. I am now starting to see some damage and more grasshoppers but this bed is just about done, here in Texas is is now hot and the kale is turning bitter so I am leaving it for the grasshoppers to feed on knowing that the sick ones are there and any new comers will eat the sick ones and then spread the disease. When you garden organically you have to get used to the idea that it is a process, one that takes time to turn the tide. This is the first year for us at this new place so I may have some problems with grasshoppers, but by being patient I can kill them at the root of the problem while not harming our bees, birds, or other good bugs.
It is best to spread NOLO Bait at the first sign of grasshoppers- when the are about 1/2 inch to an inch long. At this stage the grasshoppers will be killed by the infection. However, if you feed it when they are larger you will still infect the population with the disease that will continue to spread for several years. As you can see, if you start using this bait and your neighbors start using this bait and you put it out 2-3 times per season, you can really do some damage to the populations of grasshoppers in your area- for the long term. Spraying poisons just kills what grasshoppers are there (if it kills them at all) but does nothing to stop the cycle of the grasshopper. The use of broad spectrum poisons is a bad process and not an effective management tool.
This bed of Kale looks like an All-You-Can-Eat Buffet to the new arrivals, but it is like a loaded gun. “Come and eat my pretties” it says, but all the while death awaits. I may seem a bit dark in the way I enjoy death and destruction of the grasshoppers- but once you have watched your gardens be invaded and every leaf stripped bare you realize its you or them. Nature is a tough place to live.
Add NOLO bait to your arsenal this year, you will be glad you did in the long run. NOLO Bait can be ordered on line or purchased at a feed store or garden center that carries organic gardening supplies.
What is your biggest problem in your gardens?