The worst thing about grasshoppers in gardens is their habit of leaping up out of nowhere. But in spite of the shock they cause, these green and brown hoppers are generally beneficial in the garden. They eat some weeds, they attract birds and other wildlife, and their droppings enrich the soil. Eggs hatch from the ground in spring and early summer, and nymphs grow into adults by mid to late summer, which is when they’ll start jumping out at you.
Grasshoppers’ reputation still suffers from the way they devoured acres of crops during the drought years of the 1930s, and in some areas they still pose a serious threat to farmers. But in most home gardens, they’re benign. Because they prefer grasses and clover to flowers and vegetables, your favorite plants are typically not in danger of being their dinner. If they get hungry enough, though (for instance, if there are too many of them or their preferred foods are gone), they might expand their menu.
Grasshoppers are food for lots of critters, including cats, coyotes, frogs, toads, and birds. They’re also the target of some parasitic insects. If you’re dealing with a damaging number of grasshoppers, consider trying to attract more of their natural predators to your garden. Insecticidal soap can also be effective.
—photo courtesy of the Kemper Center for Home Gardening at the Missouri Botanical Garden