The last thing anyone wants is a biblical-style plague in their backyard, destroying their carefully cultivated gardens or colorful flowers. Grasshoppers will remove large sections of leaves and flowers, sometimes devouring the entire plant.
Grasshoppers are attracted to your yard because of your grass, flowers, and vegetable garden. The best way to get rid of them quickly is to keep your lawn and grass as short as possible while introducing bird feeders to your yard, as birds are staple predators of grasshoppers.
The damage grasshoppers leave on gnawed-up leaves and stems looks like round or ragged holes and can extend from the stem to the leaves. Once you realize you have a problem with the pesky hoppers, getting rid of them becomes a top priority.
Why Do I Have Grasshoppers On My Property?
The first step is knowing what has attracted grasshoppers to your backyard to live and deposit their eggs.
The United States has over 600 species of grasshoppers according to the Missouri Department of Conservation, some you are most likely to see:
- Meadow Grasshopper* – One of the more common grasshoppers ranging over the entire United States, it makes a distinctive chirping noise during mating season. Meadow Grasshoppers are skinny and bright green to help them blend in with uncut grass and have long antennae that go from yellow to black. They range in size from ½” to 1 ¼”.
- Red-legged grasshopper*– You can identify these grasshoppers by their reddish-colored legs. They are one of the more common and widely adaptable species of grasshoppers in the United States.
Red-legged grasshoppers hatch later than a lot of their counterparts and stay active through October in most places. A small to medium grasshopper, they’ll be ⅔” to 1 ¼” in size. Their favorite foods are crop plants and can destroy alfalfa, soybeans, oats, barley, wheat, beets, and cabbage.
- Fork-tailed Bush Katydid*– Another common grasshopper can be heard with the loudest insect song produced in North America even though they are just ½” to 1”. They have long antennae and can be found across the United States with a green body that shifts slightly to blend in with their surroundings.
- Differential grasshopper*- Black chevron markings on the hind legs help identify this species. They rarely live in the grasslands, but where crops are being grown and are larger grasshoppers ranging from 1” to 2”. Differential grasshoppers have been known to fly over 100 miles and reach heights of 1400 feet.
- Migratory grasshopper*- Dark grayish-brown tinged with reddish across their dorsal and yellow across their belly, these grasshoppers have an early hatching season. Migratory grasshoppers are strong fliers and during an outbreak have been known to eat all vegetation, including tree foliage and young seedlings, even though they are just ¾” to 1 ¼”.
- Packard grasshopper*- Packard grasshoppers prefer prairies with sandy soil and short-grass, tall-grass, or mixed-grass habitats. They can be seen in meadow-like conditions up to 9000 feet. The small to medium grasshoppers are ¾” to 1 ½” with colors ranging in browns with grayish, reddish, or yellowish tints and a yellow stripe on legs and speckles on wings.
What Kind of Grasshopper Is In Your Yard?
|Species||Meadow Grasshopper||Red-legged Grasshopper||Fork-tailed Bush Katydid||Differential Grasshopper||Migratory Grasshopper||Packard Grasshopper|
|Size||.5” to 1.25”||.66” to 1.25”||.5” to 1”||1” to 2”||.75” to 1.25”||.75” to 1.5”|
|Markings||Green with yellow and black antenna||Red and Yellow in color||Dark Leafy Green Colors with Brown Markings||A yellow grasshopper with black markings||Grayish brown with red and yellow coloring||Brown with yellow leg stripe and speckled wings|
|Habitat||Grassy Lands||Grassland and Fields||High in Trees around most types of land||Wet areas with tall growth||Grasslands, meadows, and weedy areas||Prairies and meadows with grasses|
|Food||Feeds on Grasses||Crops and Grasses,||Leaves, flower petals, and fruits||Feeds on Grasses||Wheats and Crops||Grasses and Legumes|
|Range||Throughout the US||Throughout the US||Throughout the US||US except extreme SE, NE, and NW areas||Throughout the US||Western US to Mississippi River|
Starting in late summer and early fall, grasshoppers deposit their eggs up to roughly 2″ below the surface,
They prefer exposed, preferably dry, untilled soil where they’ll lay their eggs in pod-like structures.
Once it warms up, the eggs hatch starting in late April or early May. Hatching peaks about mid-June and usually ends by late June.
Since grasshopper eggs are extremely durable, if the weather stays cool, the eggs will lie dormant until temperatures are favorable, waiting as late as July to hatch. These spring and early summer hatchings release baby grasshoppers, called nymphs, onto unsuspecting yards and gardens.
The nymphs look like adult grasshoppers but are small and will go through 6 developmental stages to become adults. This process usually takes 40-60 days in ideal weather and with a steady food supply, according to the Texas A&M Research & Extension Center.
Grasshoppers can eat up to 16 times their body weight per day, causing substantial damage to your garden!
Knowing where to watch for the grasshoppers from late July through early fall can help you prevent major infestations come spring when you are ready to plant and harvest your vegetable gardens or enjoy your blossoming flower beds.
What Grasshoppers Commonly Eat In Your Yard
Grasshoppers feed on both crops and flowers. Left unchecked, they can do extreme damage. Some of their favorite crops include onion plants, lettuce, wheat, and corn.
Onion plants can start reaching maturity around early summer when grasshoppers may be hatching, which makes them a perfect food source.
Young, small grasshoppers will do damage to these plants trying to consume enough nutrients to grow. Looking for those large, ragged holes in your onion leaves will warn you about your camouflaged visitors.
Large, leafy lettuce makes a perfect food source for grasshoppers because they are made up largely of easily digestible plant matter. Look for chunks of missing leaves to alert you to the problem. Since grasshoppers can both hop and fly, catching them in the act can be difficult.
Since there are fewer green foods available in the fall, emerging wheat plants can become the primary food source for grasshoppers.
Grasshoppers are defoliators, so they can consume straight through the stalks. You might see stems and heads laying on the ground if they are feeding on your wheat. Clearwing grasshoppers and migratory grasshoppers are two species to look out for.
Corn is another fall crop grasshoppers will happily eat. They consume the above-ground plant parts, including the ears, leaves, tassels, and green silk. Without the silk to develop, your corn ears may be bare or have scarce kernels.
Grasshopper species that love corn include the red-legged grasshopper, two-striped grasshopper, differential grasshopper, and migratory grasshopper.
The University of Illinois Extension’s newsletter Home, Yard, and Garden Pest, tells us grasshoppers will eat irises, daylilies, and sunflowers ruining a beautifully planned garden, but any flowers or greenery in your garden are susceptible to hungry grasshopper.
A single grasshopper can leave up enough eggs in the soil during the summer and fall to destroy a flower garden in the spring. Not good!
You can read our full list of what attracts grasshoppers to your yard if you’d like to learn more!
How to Attract Predators To Naturally Repel Grasshoppers (Quickly)
Having predators around that make grasshoppers one of their primary food sources is a great way to limit and reduce the population in your yard and garden, as well as stop grasshoppers from laying eggs in the area.
Here are the most common grasshopper predators:
- Cold-Blooded Predators (Snakes, Frogs & Toads)
- Warm-Blooded Mammals (Foxes, Raccoons & Opossums)
- Other Insects (Spiders, Praying Mantises & Wasps)
Attracting wild birds with feeders, nesting boxes, and birdbaths is an enjoyable way to limit the grasshopper population and have colorful visitors.
In the late spring and early summer, as grasshoppers are hatching, birds are feeding their hatchlings, and easy food like freshly caught bugs is the perfect dinner.
Common birds that will enjoy eating grasshoppers are crested flycatchers, bluebirds, robins, meadowlarks, and cardinals. Having these birds enjoying your yard will send the grasshopper population plummeting with little effort on your part.
Keeping domestic birds will also damage the grasshopper population. Chickens, guinea, and turkeys will all scratch around and hunt for grasshoppers.
If you have an interest in raising your own fowl, letting them have access to grasshopper-infested areas can help reduce your insect population.
Hawks, especially the Swainson’s Hawk, commonly known as the grasshopper hawk, will eat grasshoppers if they are in the area, up to 200 grasshoppers at a time as discovered and reported in this Montana State College article. With a wingspan of up to 49 inches, they make excellent grasshopper predators!
Keeping all grass and weeds to a shorter height makes it easier for birds to prey on grasshoppers and makes the area less attractive for grasshoppers looking for a place to lay eggs or feed.
Honestly, keeping your grass short will solve so many issues!
Frogs, toads, lizards, and newts will include grasshoppers as a primary part of their diet and will feast on them if they are in the area.
A single toad can consume over 1000 insects a day according to the National Park Service. Not using pesticides or other chemicals will encourage the small predators to your yard and garden, where they’ll help eliminate grasshoppers and other harmful insects.
Non-venomous snakes are another great reptile to have around if you are fighting a growing population of grasshoppers.
The garter snake and green snake will eat grasshoppers along with other pests, including snails, leeches, and small rodents.
There are a multitude of small mammals that would be happy to call your yard or garden home and help with pest infestations, leaving your plants to thrive.
Opossums are the only marsupials in North America and are harmless to have around. While they might indulge in newly planted seedlings; they can be invaluable for pest maintenance once your garden is established.
Most opossum offspring are born from February to October, which means joeys (opossum offspring) feed during the time grasshoppers are most active, keeping mother opossums busy catching grasshoppers.
Raccoons are omnivores that can be another great insect disposal method since most of their diet consists of insects where they get vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, fiber, magnesium, zinc, and protein.
While raccoons are cute and helpful, these furry hunters can be destructive if you leave your trash unsupervised (you can read more about why raccoons eat garbage here.) Using a trash lock can help eliminate unpleasant surprises.
A simple trash lock that will help is the Strong Strap Stretch Latch to keep your bin secure!
What about Bats?
The most beneficial and least destructive addition to your outdoors are bats. They can consume up to 1000 plus small insects in an hour and there are over 40 species of bats in the United States alone that survive on bugs alone researched by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) through their North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat).
Not only do bats help control your grasshopper population, but they also eat moths, beetles, crickets, chinch bugs, and mosquitos. Imagine being able to enjoy your yard with no grasshoppers or mosquitos on a summer evening, all thanks to your new colony of bats.
Attracting bats to your yard can take just a few simple changes.
All animals need water, and this can be especially true for bats who lose 30% of total body water a day, so making sure water is available to the nocturnal fliers is recommended by the Natural Resources Conservation Service of USDA.
Installing bat boxes can provide ready protection for your bats while they sleep during the day.
Make sure your bat box is high off the ground, ten to fifteen feet, where bats normally roost safely from predators. Your bat boxes should have multiple compartments and good ventilation, such as a Handcrafted Wooden Bat House Box for The Outdoors.
Other animals that eat grasshoppers include red foxes, hedgehogs, and the North American shrew.
Sometimes having beneficial insects can help control harmful insect populations. Encouraging these helpful bugs can be a very effective method.
If you have a water feature, such as a pond or water fountain, dragonflies will be attracted to your yard. Named after fearsome, imaginary reptiles of legend, these small predators can fly thirty miles per hour, allowing them to swoop in and catch adult grasshoppers with their strong legs and eat them while flying.
Praying mantises will also feed on fully grown grasshoppers and can consume up to six bugs per day. Mantises are attracted to gardens, wooded areas, and uncut grassy areas the same as grasshoppers, allowing easier hunting in the shared habitat.
Some insects, such as spiders, ground beetles, bee flies, crickets, and some blister beetles, prey on the grasshopper eggs eliminating the problem before they hatch. Other insects eat the grasshoppers once they hatch, including some spiders, ants, robber flies, and wasps.
Grasshoppers are one of the most commonly eaten insects in the world with over 113 countries eating insects as a source of protein data from the Library of Medicine article “Edible Insects as a Protein Source”.
For humans, grasshoppers provide more crude protein than milk and fish with high A, B, and C vitamins. The high nutritional value, minimal space requirements, and low environmental impact have quickly made grasshoppers and other insects a common food staple for over 2 billion people worldwide, about 25% of the world’s population.
Differences in food culture for the United States mean we don’t see grasshoppers as a regular food source, but products are available to try before you harvest dinner in your backyard.
The Crick-ettes Sampler Gift Pac Pack of 3 is a great product to explore entomophagy, or eating insects if you want to give it a try!
How Else Can I Naturally Deter Grasshoppers?
For natural grasshopper repellents, you can also try the following:
- Neem Oil
- Grasshopper Bait
- Mint and Garlic Spray
- Kaolin Clay
- Diatomaceous Earth
- Pesticidal Soaps
- Plants That Grasshoppers Hate
One of the most used oil sprays is neem oil, which works as a smothering agent for the insects, while the active ingredient azadirachtin works as an insecticide that travels through the plant material.
If the insect consumes the neem oil, it ultimately can lead to their end. It’s best to use neem oil on non-edible plants such as flowers or foliage.
Grasshopper bait is an effective tool for smaller areas that grow wheat and uses a microscopic fungus to attach to the wheat. When the grasshoppers eat the fungus, it causes decreased appetites that lead to their end.
Both mint and garlic sprays are commonly used for grasshopper repellent. The powerful smell can naturally discourage the grasshoppers from wanting to eat or lay eggs in the area. Try a natural spray like Mighty Mint Natural Spray for Spiders, Ants, and More.
Kaolin clay has been used in skincare products for years and works to create a film over your plants protecting them from grasshoppers. Mix with water and spray a light coating over your vegetables or flowers.
Diatomaceous earth is made from the fossilized remains of diatoms and ends the insects by dehydrating their exoskeleton. It absorbs the oils and fats while cutting into the insects with sharp edges.
Planting flowers that the grasshoppers avoid in your garden can also help run them off and keep them away.
Flowers such as lilac, jasmine, lantana, forsythia, moss rose, juniper, verbena, and sage are not plants the grasshoppers enjoy eating or living with. In your garden, utilize trap plants to keep grasshoppers off of your vegetables like garlic, tomatoes, and peas.
In this University of Arizona piece, it’s suggested to use physical barriers such as lightweight fabrics suspended for row covers. The lightweight fabric allows light to shine through and air circulation but will stop grasshoppers from reaching your plants.
You can find suitable materials in garden centers, or order them online. Try Plant Covers as a cheap and quick solution to keep grasshoppers off of your plants!
Wrapping it up!
Whichever of these methods is easiest for you can not only help fix a grasshopper infestation but also prevent future problems.
Try a combination of these solutions to find your fastest way to get rid of grasshoppers and keep them gone indefinitely, making sure you can enjoy your fresh vegetables and flourishing flowers!
Happy grasshopper repelling!
Kim, Tae-Kyung et al. “Edible Insects as a Protein Source: A Review of Public Perception, Processing Technology, and Research Trends.” Food science of animal resources vol. 39,4 (2019): 521-540. doi:10.5851/kosfa.2019.e53
Idowu, A. B., & Modder, W. W. D. (1998). Preliminary chemical analyses of the repellent secretion of the African variegated grasshopper Zonocerus variegatus. International Journal of Tropical Insect Science, 18(2), 129-137.
Zack is a Nature & Wildlife specialist based in Upstate, NY, and is the founder of his Tree Journey and Pest Pointers brands. He has a vast experience with nature while living and growing up on 50+ acres of fields, woodlands, and a freshwater bass pond. Zack has encountered many pest situations over the years and has spent his time maintaining and planting over 35 species of trees since his youth with his family on their property.
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