The Ant and the Grasshopper

IN a field one summer’s day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart’s content. An Ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. 1
“Why not come and chat with me,” said the Grasshopper, “instead of toiling and moiling in that way?” 2
“I am helping to lay up food for the winter,” said the Ant, “and recommend you to do the same.” 3
“Why bother about winter?” said the Grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present.” But the Ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the Grasshopper had no food, and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the Grasshopper knew:

From Aesop’s Fable: The Ant and the Grasshopper

It’s late summer and the summer vegetable garden is waning, the heat has settled in and the bees are still foraging and storing up honey in preparation of winter despite the a lackluster supply of blooming plants. And of course, the grasshoppers are back. Large fully functioning grasshoppers with mature wings and hardy appetites. This scrourge of a garden pest suddenly seems to be everywhere. In peak population years, grasshoppers can consume entire fields of crops. In fact, the damage done by a migratory population of grasshoppers can be compared to the biblical plague of locusts.

There are over 600 species of grasshoppers in the United States but primarily 30 varieties are responsible for the greatest amount of crop damage. Grassphoppers will feed on corn, alfafa, soybeans and cotton. While in the garden, they prefer lettuce, carrots, beans and sweet corn. However they tend to ignore squash, tomatoe leaves and peas. (I guess they leave those to to the squash beetles and tomatoe hornworms) Grasshoppers will also feed on roses and berry bushes.

So why do we see an influx of grasshoppers in the late summer when its  particularly hot and humid.  Well, the answer is

the grassphoppers have been around since early Spring but it takes about 40-60 days to form fully functioning wings.

Grasshoppers lay there eggs in untilled soil in early fall. In early Spring, the nymphs(baby grasshoppers) emerge and feed on tender young plants. Most organic grasshopper control recomends integrating pest control during this early stage of the immature grasshopper’s lifespan. By late summer, the mature grasshopper is in the peak of its garden damaging rampage and can be hard to get rid of without extreme meaures.

Some recomended methods include. 

  • Eliminating areas of tall grasses and weeds. Grasshoppers prefer this habitat and the sudden or infreguent mowing of habitat can cause them to move onto greener pastures like your garden.
  • Chicken, turkeys and wild birds. Birds eat about 2 pounds of grasshoppers per day so encourage habitat for wild birds or consider letting chickens forage in your garden. But remember chickens are non-descriminating and will eat your produce and may do more damage than grasshoppers. So, I recomend waiting between plantings of seasonal gardens. 
  • NOLO-Noseme locustae spore- known as grasshopper bait. Follow manufacturers instructions. This spore affects the grasshoppers midgut causing diarrhea and eventually death. It is important to note that Nosema is also a disease found in bees but this bait is supposed to not affect bees or birds.

Grasshoppers can be a scourge to both crops and gardens but do play a beneficial role in the enviroment. They do provide a food source to wild birds and their decomposition plays a key role in fertilization and regrowth. Also their foraging tendencies prevent the overgrowth of natural plants and grass.

However you may feel about the grasshopper, they are a force to be reckoned with and an ongoing problem in the cycle of food production. Frankly, I find their expressive heads rather intriguing and the days spent catching grasshoppers during my childhood bring back many happy memories. But hey Mr. Grasshopper, winter’s a’coming and unlike the ant or the honey bee, the grasshopper’s foraging days will soon come to an end.




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