I would like to present my nomination for “Most Annoying Garden Pest in a Continuous Role.” Every summer my garden, any many others, is plagued with grasshoppers. Perhaps plague is too strong a word because they don’t swarm through and eat everything as in a Hollywood movie. But they certainly enjoy certain plants; they leave large and ragged holes in the foliage and they’re so annoying with their clicking noises and their habit of flying into you.
Why are some gardens so attractive to grasshoppers? After all, many people complain about them, but many of you will probably sail through the growing season without every seeing any.
There are several reasons for gardens becoming the grasshopper version of the Sunday smorgasboard. First, plants which are stressed are much more attractive to grasshoppers. If plants are dry, weak or undernourished they are more likely targets.
This has been proven by research. There are changes in a plant’s chemical structure that occur when they are stressed which make them tastier. Proteins break down into amino acids, carbohydrates break down into sugars and plants become tasty meals.
Second, grasshoppers prefer a mixed diet of several plants rather than just one or two. The more plants you grow the greater the likelihood that some will be attractive.
Third, physical barriers like fences, hedges or steep banks will trap grasshoppers in the garden, preventing them from moving on. It’s like locking the door of the restaurant, you might as well just stay and eat.
Finally, grasshoppers like to lay eggs in sunny, warm and damp areas like creek beds or orchards.
Plant characteristics will influence where they will set up residence. They will generally stay away from plants which have sap in their leaves and will also avoid plants with tough leaves that are hard to chew.
Plants in shady, moist areas are less attractive because grasshoppers prefer dry, sunny spots. Some plants such as junipers and artemesia contain chemicals that they will avoid.
Grasshoppers strongly prefer leaves that have already been chewed on by other grasshoppers. There’s no word on whether they prefer these leftovers cold or warmed up in the microwave.
What to do, then, if the days in the garden are filled with the sounds of clicking grasshoppers? Many publications recommend spraying with the insecticide Sevin, but I’m not convinced this is a long-term solution. It only provides temporary control and a broadcast spray will probably kill a bunch of insects that may be beneficial in the garden.
The best defence is to ensure your plants are healthy and not subjected to dry conditions. Use mulch in the garden to keep the moisture in the soil. Remove damaged leaves when you see them and take a small net out in the garden to catch them.
I might suggest that you turn the prisoners over to small children, who will do them what you and I did to grasshoppers when we were small children, but that would be cruel.

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