Grasshoppers are native to much of the rangeland along the Central Coast. The adults lay eggs in early to mid-summer and die. The eggs survive the winter and hatch in spring as temperatures (day degrees) accumulate. The young feed on native grasses until they dry up, at which time the nymphs start to migrate (crawl) in search of anything green. Persons who live in or on the edge of grasslands should take an occasional mid-day walk into the grass and make observations of the grasshopper activity at their feet. Young hoppers cannot fly, but they can crawl and hop, and they will migrate by the thousands when lack of food stimulates a migration. Most of us have seen such events on TV, never thinking it could happen here!! The grasshoppers are not as big as the ones on TV, but their destructive potential is still mighty.
What can be done? If immature grasshoppers begin to migrate, they can at times be stopped or at least slowed down by baits and sprays. Baits are best because they can be applied ahead of the migration, and the hoppers will consume them and die as they move across an area. Sprays have to make contact with the hopper to be very effective. Plants that need to be protected can be sprayed, but some damage will occur while the hoppers are eating enough of the plant to get a stomach ache and die.
A band of bait – 10 – 20 feet wide – should be laid down in front of the migrating grasshopper nymphs. The baits may be scattered with a broadcast fertilizer spreader or similar implement. Apply spray directly on the hoppers and/or on the plants you hope to protect. Spraying is usually less effective than baits. However, baits are only effective against immature (cannot fly yet) grasshoppers. Once they have wings, they can and will fly over the bait making it virtually ineffective.