Crop damaging hoppers hatching attack plan

Won’t debut until June | The early hatching varieties are not harmful to crops

Farmers need to give grasshoppers a lot more love.


Of the more than 100 species of grasshoppers in Canada, only about four cause serious damage to crops, says John Gavloski, an entomologist with Manitoba Agriculture.


“A lot of people think of grasshoppers as being crop pests. They lump all grasshoppers into that category. In reality, it’s just a few that fit into that category,” said Gavloski.


Most of the grasshoppers, especially the early hatching species, are not harmful to crops.


“People can see these and think grasshoppers are already quite big and it can alarm people. Our pest species haven’t hatched yet. I don’t want people seeing a few larger grasshoppers in a patch and thinking, ‘wow, grasshoppers are huge, it’s going to be a bad year’, ” he said.


The grasshopper species that cause the most pest damage overwinter as eggs and won’t likely hatch until June because of the long, cool spring.


“What’s important to know is there are three or four species of grasshoppers that potentially can be pests and damage your crops, but there are a lot of species of grasshoppers in Canada. We have only a handful that can be pests.”


Initial emergence of the pest types will begin at the edge of fields or areas that had a lot of lush, green vegetation last year.


Gavloski said people don’t tend to notice the grasshoppers hatching along the edges of the fields because they’re not yet flying or feeding much. Pest grasshoppers begin to do serious damage in late July and early August.


“By then, it’s almost too late to be doing anything.”


Gavloski recommended monitoring the edges of the fields or areas where grasshoppers are most likely to overwinter.


If grasshopper numbers increase in the field edges, that is the time to think about control methods.


“If certain field edges or areas that seem to have a lot heavily infested, it’s much easier to deal with them when they’re concentrated in those edges and they don’t have their wings than dealing with them later when they start dispersing. When they get bigger, they’re harder to kill.”


Foliar spray and dry bait, such as Eco Bran, are effective ways to control grasshoppers along the edges of the field early in the season.


Any grasshoppers flying in May and early June are likely non-pest species.


“They don’t harm the crop and are a food source for birds. They never get to levels that are a threat to crop, but they can be quite big early on,” he said. 


“We have a lot of species of grasshoppers, the vast majority of them don’t do damage to crops and ecologically they have beneficial roles. There are species that feed on nothing but weeds. The Russian thistle grasshoppers feed only on Russian thistle.”


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