Pests & Predators, Ep 4: Eat and be eaten — grasshoppers as pests and food

Not all grasshoppers are pests, though few farmers would likely say they enjoy seeing them when they walk a field. Grasshoppers can — and do — cause significant economic damage to crops in high numbered years, sometimes wiping out entire fields, but these insects also play a large role in the insect world as food.

Dr. John Gavloski, provincial entomologist with Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development, explains in this episode of the Pest & Predators podcast that grasshopper eggs are a key part of many insect diets.

These insects, in turn, can keep pest grasshopper species in check if abundant enough. What you’re looking for, he says, are several species; including bee fly, field crickets, blister beetles, and ground beetles. (Story and photos are below the player)

Often it is these other insect species’ larvae that feed on the egg masses. When scouting for grasshoppers, it’s important to get digging — as egg masses in the soil are an important indication of upcoming pest pressure.

There are times when grasshopper numbers do climb to economic thresholds, and in these instances, Gavloski says that as you scout and monitor, keep tabs on the other beneficial insects present. If you do have to spray, be cautious of wiping out these egg-eaters — perhaps by choosing a more selective insecticide for grasshopper control.

A look at some of the grasshopper predators (as adults):

Bee fly Photo credit: J. Gavloski, 2019
Blister beetle. Photo credit: J. Gavloski, 2019
Grasshopper eggs. Photo credit: J. Gavloski, 2019

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