You may have fond memories of chasing grasshoppers through the yard as a child and watching them jump and fly to get away. Although these insects can be amusing to observe, they can easily become destructive.
Surprisingly, certain species of grasshoppers can form swarms under the right conditions, causing them to change and become locusts of biblical proportions.
Do grasshoppers bite? Are they dangerous? Well, I’m about to tell you 7 important facts that you need to know about grasshoppers, including what to do if you are bitten!
- What Attracts Grasshoppers?
- What Do Grasshoppers Eat?
- Do Grasshoppers Bite Humans?
- Are Grasshoppers Poisonous?
- Do Grasshoppers Spit?
- What To Do If Bitten By A Grasshopper
- How To Get Rid Of Grasshoppers
What Attracts Grasshoppers?
There are a number of things grasshoppers could be attracted to in your backyard. They prefer to live in dry areas with low-growing plants, such as grasses. They lay their eggs in the soil beneath grass plantings but they are also attracted to flowers and some garden vegetables, such as beans and lettuce. As is often the case, these creatures follow their noses and go to where there is food and shelter.
What Do Grasshoppers Eat?
Grasshoppers like to eat grasses and cereal crops, with the little chewing insects happily chowing down on vegetables and pastures. A swarm of grasshoppers can devastate an entire crop and, in many regions, it’s common to lose 25% of a crop to grasshoppers each season.
Of course, these opportunistic feeders don’t just eat agricultural crops. They love to dine on your lawn too. Watch out for these hungry insects as they pilfer your garden, flowers, trees, and shrubs. They can eat almost any type of vegetation.
Grasshoppers will eat weeds, seeds, and even dead insects, adding protein to their diets.
Do Grasshoppers Bite Humans?
Yes, they can bite and indeed they do from time to time. But it’s rare. The main risk from grasshoppers comes during their swarming phase. A subspecies of short-horned grasshopper will swarm in very specific conditions. The grasshoppers that participate in this phenomenon are commonly known as locusts.
According to National Geographic, “locust” is used when the grasshoppers’ behavior changes into a grouping phase when the insect becomes gregarious and aggressive and groups into large numbers, often devastating crops on an immense scale.
Outside of this phase, certain species of grasshoppers will also bite if they feel threatened but it is rare.
Are Grasshoppers Poisonous?
Grasshoppers do not have venom and, therefore, are not poisonous. So even if a grasshopper did bite a human, it would not have a lasting effect like a bee sting, although it might hurt for a while. There is no reason to worry about a grasshopper injecting venom or poison if they should happen to bite because they do not produce any.
Do Grasshoppers Spit?
Grasshoppers can spit. Actually, when they are threatened, grasshoppers release a “defensive regurgitation,” which is sometimes known as grasshopper spit. This is a fluid that grasshoppers will release from their mouths.
The spit contains digestive enzymes along with partially digested plants. However, it’s not dangerous, just unpleasant.
As a child, you may have heard that grasshoppers spit tobacco juice. It isn’t really tobacco juice, though. It’s just called that due to its color, which can stain skin temporarily.
Grasshopper spit is not dangerous to people. You may want to wear gloves when handling grasshoppers in order to prevent the juice from staining your skin.
What To Do If Bitten By A Grasshopper
While a grasshopper bite is unlikely and should not cause any lasting damage, it could be painful, especially from a large grasshopper. Here is what to do if you are unfortunate enough to be bitten:
- Remove any debris that may have been left behind from the bite.
- Clean the affected area well with soap and water.
- Apply an ice pack to the area if the bite is swollen. If the bite is itchy, you can apply anti-itch lotion, such as Calamine lotion. Over-the-counter pain medication, such as ibuprofen, could help take the pain away if the bite is painful. If you have any concerns about the severity of the bite, always call your doctor.
- Do not scratch the bite. Doing so can lead to infection.
- The bite should clear up within a few days. See your doctor if it shows signs of infection.
How To Get Rid Of Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers can be found on every continent except for Antarctica. There are over 10,000 species of these green to gray-brown herbivorous insects.
They can sometimes be confused with katydids or crickets, but grasshoppers are relatively easy to identify by their distinctive long hind legs and two sets of wings.
- Have long hind legs used for jumping
- Have two sets of wings, but the front wings are not used for flying
- Will most often be a green to brownish-grey color which helps to camouflage them in the grasses and weeds.
- Have antennae that are shorter than the rest of their bodies
Grasshoppers have three stages in their life cycle:
You might find patches of grasshopper eggs in plant roots. They look like small grains of rice and are laid with a foamy substance that helps to protect them while they incubate. When the eggs hatch, the juvenile grasshoppers are known as nymphs.
Nymphs hatch out during spring and summer. As they grow, they will shed their exoskeleton several times until they reach adulthood. It takes about two months for grasshoppers to grow from egg to adult.
Full-grown grasshoppers can fly and jump. They can jump forward approximately one meter (or about 3 feet) in distance and up to 25 centimeters (almost 10 inches) in height.
You can also identify them through their singing. They make a distinctive chirping, singing sound by rubbing their hind legs against their wings.
Once you can identify what a grasshopper looks like, you’ll need to inspect the area for damage, eggs, and other signs of grasshoppers.
I like to watch for ragged-shaped holes in my plant leaves that are a tell-tale sign of feeding grasshoppers. They begin feeding early in the summer and continue feeding and multiplying until the first frost, so the earlier you can discover and treat these pests, the better.
Although grasshoppers usually prefer to feed on grass, you might find them eating your vegetables, flowers, trees, or shrubs, especially during a severe infestation when food is more scarce and grasshoppers are competing for resources.
Try looking for them in early morning or at dusk when temperatures are a little cooler, as this causes them to move around at a slower pace, making them easier to spot and catch.
Once you know you have an infestation, you’ll need to treat the affected areas. You can try environmental methods, organic methods, and even animals to control the grasshopper population in your yard and gardens. For the best results, try a combination of these methods.
A natural line of defense against grasshoppers is to employ some grasshopper predators. Chickens and guinea fowl love to munch on all kinds of insects, including grasshoppers. Having a few free-range birds will help cut down on the grasshopper population. Keep in mind that chickens also love to eat what is growing in your garden, so you may need to fence it off to keep the chickens from eating your vegetable plants as well.
A few other animals may prey on grasshoppers, such as turtles, toads, raccoons, and even bats. Larger insects, such as the Chinese mantis, can be released and will feed on them. Some kinds of fungi and nematodes can infect and kill grasshoppers, as well, although it may take several years for them to become established enough to make a difference in the population.
You may want to treat your grasshopper problem with some organic pest deterrents. Diatomaceous earth (DE) available on Amazon.com, can be sprinkled on and around the plants that the grasshoppers are eating. This will kill the grasshoppers. DE is not harmful to people.
Another idea is to use organic bug sprays, such as Neem oil or a mixture of vinegar, water, and dish soap. Spraying this on the plants should kill the insects, although care must be taken because it can also be harmful to the plants.
If these don’t work, you can enlist the help of commercial pesticides. If your area is prone to grasshopper infestations, you will want to begin treatment early in the year. If you begin early, you may want to use a granular product that will last throughout the season. Or you can use sprays, especially those containing pyrethrin, which is considered to be an organic insecticide.
You can remove grasshoppers from your garden by hand. This is an effective method when you just have a few grasshoppers to deal with.
The best time to remove them is in the early morning or at dusk when the temperatures are cool and grasshoppers are moving slowly. Wear gloves and simply pick the grasshoppers off of the plants and drop them in a bucket of soapy water, or in a container and release them as far away as possible.
You can also trap grasshoppers if you do not have time to pick them off by hand. Find the areas where the grasshoppers are the most active and place a dish of 1 part molasses to 10 parts water in the dish. The grasshoppers will be drawn to the molasses and drown in the solution. You may have to repeat this frequently.
You may be able to prevent a grasshopper infestation through thoughtful planting. There are a number of flowers that grasshoppers do not like, so they will probably be safe from being a grasshopper’s lunch. You can surround or intermingle these in your garden to ward off the pests. For example, you might try some of these flowers in your garden:
Cilantro and Calendula also repel grasshoppers and can be planted around the borders of your garden to ward off the bugs. You might also try growing vegetables that grasshoppers do not eat, such as squash, peas, and even tomatoes.
Another way of preventing a grasshopper infestation is to create a habitat that the grasshoppers prefer over your garden. For example, you might grow some tall grass on the outskirts of your yard or garden, which will draw the grasshoppers away from your flower beds and vegetables.
One more method to ward off grasshoppers and prevent them from munching on your garden is to make a spray of garlic and water, which they find offensive. Spray the mixture around your plants to keep the grasshoppers away.
Final Thoughts On Grasshopper Bites
Yes, grasshoppers can bite. But, as we discussed, the risk is very low and the consequences are short-lived. They are not poisonous or venomous but they may give you a ‘nip’ if they feel threatened or if they are in a swarming phase.
Live and let live where possible. If you do need to treat your backyard or garden for grasshoppers, there are several useful suggestions in this article on how to go about it.
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