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6:16 AM Mon, Nov. 19th

Little grasshoppers can become big problem

Ask the Contractor

There are back! On my 5-mile walks over this past Labor Day weekend, I noticed the “littles” are jumping around, and believe me it never is good to see young, tiny grasshoppers hatching and jumping around. Some of these “littles” look to be at least a half-inch long. The “littles” are hatching by the hundreds. I can hardly wait to see (well not really) what they look like next weekend on my trek.

The infestation of “littles” are already hopping great distances, and I am not too keen on them growing into 5-inch critters and nipping at my feet when I am out walking. If you want to see someone hop and jump when a grasshopper is nipping at your heels, I do believe I can jump 20 times the length of my body, which is 116 feet!

As we know, grasshoppers are occasional pests of ornamental landscapes, and this is going to be a tough season for grasshoppers. There is a way homeowners can minimize the impact of grasshoppers and that is through the use of a good quality multi-purpose insect control.

Generally only one generation of grasshoppers is produced each year; however, cool, dry weather during the spring months and the successive emergences of different grasshopper species can result in a seemingly endless procession of these insects throughout the summer and fall months. Grasshopper eggs are generally laid during the fall and late summer in rural, non-crop landscapes and in weedy areas. Eggs usually hatch the following spring, in June and July. The development of grasshopper nymphs to the adult stage requires 40 to 60 days or more, and that timing is right on with all of the “littles” that I see. I have already sprayed my yard this past weekend and am hopeful that the dousing of the insect repellant will work.

We know that grasshoppers are both beloved characters in children’s stories and despised pests that plague our landscapes and are one of the insects we encounter nearly every day and yet we know very little about them.

Grasshoppers and locusts are the same thing

Mention grasshoppers, and many people recall pleasant childhood memories of trying to catch them in meadows or backyards. Say the word locusts, however, and most people think of historic plagues of pests, raining down on farm fields and eating every plant in sight. Truth be told, grasshoppers and locusts are one and the same. Yes, we have some species we’ve dubbed grasshoppers, and others we call locusts, but essentially we’re talking about the same jumping herbivores.

Grasshoppers have ears on their bellies

In grasshoppers, the auditory organs are in a rather unusual location – on the abdomen. On each side of the first abdominal segment, tucked under the wings, are membranes that vibrate in response to sound waves. This simple eardrum, called a tympana, allows the grasshopper to hear the songs of its fellow grasshoppers.

Although grasshoppers can hear, they can’t distinguish pitches very well, so no wonder they do not understand my “yuk, go jump somewhere else” threatening warning. The grasshopper’s auditory organs are simple structures. They can detect differences in intensity and rhythm, but not pitch. The male grasshopper’s song isn’t particularly melodic, since females don’t care whether a fellow can carry a tune. Each species produces a characteristic rhythm that distinguishes its song from others, and enables courting males and females of a given species to find each other.

Grasshoppers make music by stridulating or crepitating

That sounds complicated, doesn’t it? Most grasshoppers stridulate, which simply means they rub their hind leg against their forewing. Special pegs on the inside of the hind leg act like a percussion instrument of sorts, when they come in contact with the thickened edge of the wing.

Grasshoppers can fly.--

Most grasshoppers are pretty strong fliers, and will make good use of their wings to escape predators. Their jumping ability just gives them a boost into the air.

Grasshoppers jump by catapulting themselves into the air

If you’ve ever tried to catch a grasshopper, you know how far they can jump to flee danger. If humans could jump the way grasshoppers do, we would easily leap the length of a football field or more. How do they jump so far? It’s all in those big, back legs. A grasshopper’s hind legs function like miniature catapults. When it wants to jump, the grasshopper contracts its large flexor muscles slowly, bending its hind legs at the knee joint. A special piece of cuticle within the knee acts as a spring, storing up all that potential energy. When the grasshopper is ready to jump, it relaxes the leg muscles, allowing the spring to release its energy and catapulting its body into the air.

Grasshoppers cause billions of dollars in damage to food crops annually, worldwide

A lone grasshopper doesn’t do much harm, although it eats about half its body weight in plants per day. But when locusts swarm, their combined feeding habits can completely defoliate a landscape.

Grasshoppers provide an important source of protein to people in many parts of the world.

From what I’ve heard, grasshoppers are delicious. People have eaten locusts and grasshoppers for centuries. I like my protein however, I am not ready for grasshoppers.

Grasshoppers existed long before dinosaurs

The ancestors of our modern day grasshoppers evolved well over 200 million years ago, during the Triassic period, when the first reptiles appeared on Earth.

Grasshoppers sometimes “spit” brown liquid to defend themselves

Scientists believe this behavior is a means of self-defense, and that the liquid helps them repel predators. Some people say grasshoppers spit “tobacco juice,” probably because grasshoppers have been associated with tobacco crops in the past. I wonder if I will encounter an army of protesting grasshoppers on my walk?

Remember to tune in to YCCA’s Hammer Time every Saturday and Sunday morning 7:00 am on KQNA 1130 am/99.9 fm or 95.5 fm or the web kqna.com. Listen to Sandy and Mike talk about the construction industry, meet your local community partners and so much more.