It is to be summertime the next several days. Veggie gardens have gone into full production. Tomatoes, okra, eggplant, peppers and grasshoppers are coming on strong. Do you have grasshoppers? Care to find out more about what's zinging around when you walk through the grass? Read on....

August 21st 2013 Blog

Becky Emerson Carlberg

It appears that we are in summer mode for the next several days, perhaps into September.  The warmth combined with the recent rainfall has sent vegetable gardens into full production. Tomatoes, eggplants, cucumbers, okra, peppers, and grasshoppers are coming on strong.  As you previously read in Ms. Linda’s blog from August 17th, she is into creative landscaping using T posts, cane poles and hay baling string.  Her productive cucumbers have been incorporated into a work of art.  Just think if her husband had “chainsaw” carved a bear out of one pecan stump instead of forming a potted plant stand.  She could then call her garden the “The Phoenix Ariseth Gallery”!  I know.  It’s bad.  If you say it fast three times, your tongue gets a super workout.

Not as much of a workout as some gardeners are getting trying to deal with the grasshoppers.  Dodge Nichols, the new Ag Educator for the Pottawatomie County OSU Extension, talked about grasshoppers at the Multi-County Master Gardeners meeting this Wednesday morning (August 21st).  What follows is  his, mine and Google’s summation.

Grasshoppers have strong jaws, two pairs of wings, and are classified as either long-horned (antennae longer than body) or short-horned (antennae shorter than body).  Our problem grasshopper is the short-horned Two Striped grasshopper (Melanoplus bivittatus), one of the first grasshoppers on the scene.  Other types follow later.  Grasshoppers are a diverse lot with names such as club-horned grasshopper, velvet-striped grasshopper, brown-spotted range grasshopper, speckled rangeland grasshopper, northern green-striped grasshopper, red-shanked grasshopper, clear-winged grasshopper, Packard’s grasshopper, lesser migratory grasshopper and Carolina grasshopper, to name a few.

To affirm its proper identity, count the stripes on its back.  The adult Two-Striper is green and yellow, but immature forms may come in the colors of autumn.  The grasshoppers buzz by rubbing their rough back wings against their front wings.  And as with so much of nature, only the males can sing.  The singing and buzzing might have helped my uncles locate grasshoppers.  They kept grasshopper cages in the smoke house to fill with uncooperative hoppers before going fishing.  Some of the irate grasshoppers would spit “tobacco juice”, a brown bitter liquid we were convinced would burn the skin right off our hands.  That would be right after the grasshopper had taken out a big chunk of flesh with its powerful jaws.  For years I personally thought minnows were much safer bait.

Grasshoppers have boom or bust cycles.  There are “outbreak” big population years or intervening “moderate” population years (2 to 4) that follow the outbreaks.  Certain triggers contribute to outbreaks:  rainfall less than 25”/year (not a problem this year, but remember our early spring up until mid-April was dry), available untilled patches of land (fence rows, fields, vacant lots) or locations near croplands.  Grasshopper damages go up as summer progresses.  The adults will come into yards in July and August, especially if crops are growing in the vicinity.

The hoppers prefer flowers (I will testify to orange Hibiscus flowers being a favorite), lettuce, beans, sweet corn and tender trees and shrubs.  Please do not forget paint, caulking and even your window screens.  Length of time grasshoppers hang around determines the amount of impact.

Grasshoppers develop through three stages.  They each begin life in an egg that was laid in the upper few inches of soil in that untilled fallow fence row.  Mama can lay up to100 eggs.  Perhaps it would make a difference if she could sing.  The warmer the spring, the earlier the hatching.  The milder the fall, the more eggs she lays.  Hatching time is temperature related, so the two-striped grasshopper may begin egg production in mid-May or earlier.  The next stage is the nymph stage.  These guys look exactly like miniature adults without wings.  They feed during the day, but if the temperature is below 65 degrees F or it is rainy, they starve.  Here is where I can also add the two-striped grasshopper is susceptible to infection from the fungus Entomophaga grylli if the weather is moist and warm, providing there are some fungal spores already present.

The final stage is adult, the only stage with wings.  The lifespan might last two to three months.  The sad thing is once the grasshoppers enter adulthood; there are few things that can affect their population numbers.  While the hoppers are in the nymph 3rd and 4th stages, chemical controls may be used, but must be applied before July to be effective.  

Besides humans trapping, stepping and hitting them with cars (they adhere particularly well to the windshields and paint jobs), birds (guinea hens and turkeys), skunks, coyotes, dogs, reptiles, rodents and even spiders, beetles, robber flies, and humans dine on them.  You can drink grasshoppers (use crème de menthe, white crème de cocoa, and vodka.  Wait.  You want the real McCoy?).  OK, you can dry roast the grasshoppers, garlic butter fry them, chop up a cup of dried hoppers and put them in your candied popcorn, add chopped grasshoppers to goulash, frozen and thawed grasshoppers to gumbo, boiled grasshoppers to enchiladas, or finish your meal with chocolate-covered grasshoppers or grasshopper fruitcake (must have grasshopper flour on hand). 

Here is a drink you will make over and over.  Serve it often to your friends and family.  Enjoy.

Silly Willy's Home Brew 

Offered by Jo Tuscarora ~ Great-Great-Granddaughter of Orlando Tongue ~...who learned this from some Ol' Gal 

Chase wild bullfrogs for three miles to gather up hops. To them add ten gallons of tan bark, 1/2 pint of shellac, an' one bar of homemade soap. Boil 36 hours, them strain through an i.w.w. Sock to keep it frum workin'. Add one grasshopper to each pint to give it a kick. Pour a little into the kitchen sink; if it takes the enamel off, it's ready to bottle. 

From Native American Technology and Art