Grasshoppers, like many insects, are fascinating to look at, especially as they jump from plant to plant, going about their daily lives.
However, for people who pride themselves on the appearance and health of their garden, a thriving grasshopper population is not great news.
Grasshoppers can be very destructive to garden environments, eating and damaging the plants that make up part of their diet. Additionally, if you’ve seen a lot of grasshoppers in your garden lately, you may be wondering whether they can bite humans, and whether this could be dangerous.
In today’s guide, we’ll be answering the question ‘do grasshoppers bite?’ and providing you with all the information you need to understand and deal with these insects as a gardener.
Why Are Grasshoppers Drawn To My Yard?
First of all, if you’ve noticed that grasshoppers seem to be thriving and growing in numbers in your garden or yard, you might be wondering what has attracted them.
Grasshoppers may be attracted to a variety of things in your garden.
Firstly, if your garden is filled with low-growing plants (think species of grass) and is more dry than humid, this is the optimal environment for grasshoppers, so don’t be surprised if these insects like to congregate here.
Remember that grasshoppers will prioritize areas with grass so that they can lay their eggs in the soil underneath.
Additionally, grasshoppers love to smell out flowers and vegetables in a garden and go towards them because many plants are a source of food for grasshoppers.
The Grasshopper’s Diet
As we mentioned previously, grasshoppers eat a variety of plants. However, they’re omnivores, which means that protein from other insects makes up a significant portion of their diet.
In terms of what plants grasshoppers eat, they usually focus on cereal crops and grasses, but they’re also more than happy to eat vegetables and feast on pastures.
Seeds and weeds are also on the menu for grasshoppers. Basically, nearly any vegetation is potential food for grasshoppers.
On top of that, grasshoppers will supplement their mostly plant-based diet with some extra protein from dead insects.
Can Grasshoppers Bite Humans?
If you’re often out in your yard or garden tending to your plants, you might have concerns about grasshoppers’ potential to bite. Can grasshoppers bite humans?
The short answer to that question is yes, grasshoppers can bite humans and other animals, and they sometimes do, but it’s actually quite rare outside of the locust phase.
The locust phase, also known as the swarming phase, refers to a specific behavior of the short-horned grasshopper, which is one of the more aggressive subspecies of grasshopper.
During this phase, the short-horned grasshopper will exhibit grouping behavior with large numbers of grasshoppers and swarm on crops, which causes significant damage.
Because the grasshoppers become more gregarious during the swarming phase, they are more likely to bite if they feel under threat.
Grasshoppers might also bite in perceived threatening situations outside of the locust phase, but again, this doesn’t happen very often.
Are Grasshoppers Venomous?
If a grasshopper bites you, your first concern is probably that the bite might be venomous. Luckily, we can set your mind at rest here – grasshoppers do not have any venom in their systems, so you don’t need to worry about that if you’re bitten by one of these insects.
The bite is likely to be a little sore, but you can take comfort in the fact that it shouldn’t do you any lasting harm unless you happen to be allergic to grasshoppers.
However, most allergic reactions to grasshoppers are not actually related to their bite but rather skin-to-skin contact.
Therefore, if you’ve ever held a grasshopper or hand one land on you, you would probably already know whether you’re allergic to grasshoppers, so this isn’t something you necessarily need to worry about if you’re bitten.
With that being said, if you notice symptoms of eczema or allergic asthma after being bitten by a grasshopper, you should seek prompt medical attention.
How To Treat A Grasshopper Bite
Even though grasshopper bites are rare and not typically dangerous, being bitten by any insect is never a fun experience.
The bite may be painful, so you might want to take steps to alleviate any discomfort, and you should also take preventative measures to help prevent a possible infection.
Here’s what to do if you get bitten by a grasshopper:
- First, check the wound for any debris. Debris or dirt in a wound increases the chances of infection, so you want to make sure that nothing has been left behind in your skin.
- Once you’re sure there’s no debris in your wound, the next thing you need to do is thoroughly wash the wounded area with soap and water. This will ensure that the wound is clean and can heal properly.
- Depending on how large the grasshopper that bit you was or how sensitive you are to insect bites, the area may be swollen. There might also be some mild irritation which could manifest as an itchy feeling. You can treat any swelling using an ice pack, and you could also apply anti-itch lotion. It’s fine to take over-the-counter pain medication like ibuprofen if you feel you need it. However, if the swelling, itching, or pain is severe, you might be having an allergic reaction or the wound might be infected.
- The bite should heal fully within 3 or 4 days. While you’re waiting for it to heal, avoid scratching it. This may be difficult to do if the bite is itchy, but scratching can open up the wound and introduce bacteria to the site, leading to infection.
- If you do notice any signs of infection or an allergy, such as significant pain, severe swelling, discoloration or intense itching, please consult a doctor.
Why Do Grasshoppers Spit?
Those gardeners who have had close encounters with grasshoppers may have witnessed something strange: sometimes, a grasshopper will produce a dark brown liquid which comes out of its mouth.
If you’ve ever seen this happen, it looks like the grasshopper is spitting at you. Some people refer to the fluid as ‘tobacco juice’ because of its appearance.
Actually, this is called defensive regurgitation, and it’s a behavior that grasshoppers exhibit when they feel threatened.
The dark brown fluid is made up of partly digested plants as well as digestive enzymes. It’s not the nicest thing in the world, but don’t panic if any of it makes contact with your skin – it’s not dangerous.
You just need to wash your hands as soon as possible so that it doesn’t stain your skin. Alternatively, you can just wear gloves while gardening.
Controlling Grasshopper Populations
If the grasshopper population in your garden or lawn has gotten out of control and your vegetation is beginning to suffer as a result, you may need to take steps to control the population and ultimately get rid of these insects.
Here are the steps you should follow to identify and treat a grasshopper infestation in your garden and save your plants from further damage:
First, before you take any other steps, you need to be sure that you are actually dealing with a grasshopper infestation.
Different pest infestations call for different treatment methods, so if you simply assume grasshoppers are the problem, you could end up wasting your time on measures that don’t work.
Now, there are more than 10,000 different species of grasshopper in the United States and basically everywhere in the world with the exception of Antarctica.
Luckily, they all look relatively similar because they all have long hind legs, wings, proportionally short antennae, and gray, green or brown coloring.
Looking for these features will help you to distinguish between grasshoppers and other similar insects like crickets and katydids.
The main way to tell the difference between these insects is that crickets and katydids have longer antennae proportional to their bodies, while grasshoppers bodies are shorter than their antennae.
You can also identify grasshoppers by observing their life cycle. Grasshoppers hatch from eggs, which are laid amongst the roots of plants, usually in grassy soil.
These eggs are roughly the size and shape of a grain of rice, but if you look closely, you’ll see a foam-like substance coating the eggs. This is to protect them during the incubation stage.
When grasshoppers hatch, they are called nymphs, which is the term used to describe juvenile grasshoppers.
You’ll find nymphs in your garden in the warmer months of spring and summer, and during the first two months of their lives (the time it takes for them to reach adulthood) they shed their exoskeletons multiple times.
About two months after hatching, grasshoppers will be fully fledged adults. At this point, they will start jumping and flying, which is when you’re most likely to notice them.
They are able to jump about 10 inches up in the air and a meter in front of them. You may also be able to hear adult grasshoppers ‘singing’, which is a chirping noise they make with their wings and hind legs.
Look For Damage And Eggs
If you suspect that you have a large grasshopper population in your yard or garden and that your plants are sustaining damage because of it, the next step after identifying the grasshoppers is to inspect your vegetation for any signs of damage. You’ll also want to look for eggs.
You can often tell when grasshoppers have been snacking on your plants because there will be jagged holes in the leaves. If you notice these holes between early summer and late fall, grasshoppers are the likely culprits.
The best time to spot actual grasshoppers and confirm your suspicions is in the early morning (around dawn) and in the evening at dusk.
During these times, the cooler temperatures mean that grasshoppers move more slowly, so it’s easier to get a proper look at them.
Treat The Area
Now that you have confirmed that a) there are grasshoppers in your garden and b) they’re damaging your plants, you will need to take steps to prevent further damage.
There are a few approaches you can take to remedy your grasshopper problem, and we’re going to discuss each of them here.
One method might work better than the others for you depending on various factors such as the location of your garden, your stance on using pesticides, and your personal feelings about culling insects.
Removal By Hand
If you feel uncomfortable with the idea of killing the grasshoppers in your garden, you can use the hand-removal method.
Assuming that your garden isn’t overwhelmed with grasshoppers (if it is, this method is unlikely to be effective), you can try to catch the grasshoppers and put them in a container.
Then, you can release them in an area that is far enough away from your garden that they won’t find their way back.
Another reason why gardeners might use manual removal techniques to get rid of grasshoppers is that they want to avoid introducing other animals or using pesticides in their garden (see below).
If that’s the case for you and you don’t have a problem with killing the grasshoppers, you can either pick them up and drop them into a container of water and soap, or you can trap them with a mixture of 10 parts water to 1 part molasses.
Getting rid of grasshoppers in your garden can be hard work, so many gardeners prefer to employ other animals to do that work for them.
Some of the best animals for catching grasshoppers include guinea fowl and chickens, so keeping some free-range birds in your garden will help to manage the numbers of grasshoppers.
Toads, turtles, bats, and raccoons also like to feed on grasshoppers, so if you have a pet turtle or know that any of these other animals frequent your garden regularly, you might want to wait and see if they take care of the problem for you.
If you’re going to rely on other animals to get rid of the grasshoppers in your yard, though, you’ll need to fence off your plants to make sure they don’t eat them, too!
Some nematodes and fungi have also been known to kill grasshoppers through infection, but you’ll need to wait a few years for them to grow and spread enough to be effective.
Most gardeners are opposed to using harsh chemical pesticides on their crops, but you can buy organic pesticides that aren’t harmful to humans and will kill grasshoppers as well as other pests.
Neem oil is an effective organic deterrent, or you can use an organic bug spray.
You know what they say: a prevention is better than a cure. If you don’t want to have to get rid of grasshoppers on a regular basis, it’s best to stop them getting to your plants in the first place.
Grasshoppers are too small to be held back by fences, but you could grow plants like sage, salvia, verbena, forsythia, lilac and dianthus, which are known to deter grasshoppers. Spraying your crops with a water and garlic solution will also keep grasshoppers at bay.
You might consider growing vegetables and fruits that grasshoppers don’t like, such as tomatoes and squash.
Alternatively, if you create a grasshopper-friendly area in your garden (preferably with tall grass) away from your crops, the insects might be inclined to stay in the grass and leave your other plants alone.
While grasshoppers can bite humans, they usually only do so when they feel threatened and the bites are usually not harmful.
To keep your crops safe and prevent grasshopper bites, try a combination of the preventative measures outlined in this article.
If you experience alarming symptoms after being bitten by a grasshopper, please seek medical attention as soon as possible.