Grasshoppers have a nasty bite but thankfully it isn’t poisonous. Grasshoppers are not usually unwelcome guests but if they are attracted to your garden in large numbers the chances of being on the end of a sharp nip increase!
In this short article, we will explain all you need to know about grasshopper bites, help you decide whether you want to get along with or get rid of grasshoppers in your garden.
Grasshoppers are members of the Orthoptera family of insects that include almost interchangeable species like crickets, katydids, and locusts.
They are highly recognizable with wings and long, powerful hind legs that are made for jumping.
They are found all over the world and as plant-eating insects, they have a tendency of settling where there is an abundance of vegetation for them to graze on.
Most People Are Unaware That Grasshoppers Are Capable of a Bite until They Experience One!
The medical harm that grasshoppers cause is primarily due to their bite.
Direct contact with grasshoppers can also cause allergies and some species may secrete defensive chemicals that will irritate the skin.
How Do Grasshoppers Bite?
Grasshoppers have mandibulate mouthparts, frank jaws, that are extremely strong and at times are known to bite humans who handle them.
As herbivores, grasshoppers normally use their strong jaws to cut and chew plant material:
- The bite of a grasshopper is capable of cutting the flesh of a finger and drawing blood.
- They have remarkable incisive and molar strength that is able to incise and chew even the toughest plant species.
- If threatened or caught, a strong bite is often a grasshopper’s immediate response, followed by regurgitation of nasty gastric juices.
This makes a grasshopper bite especially painful. Interestingly in Eastern Europe, this regurgitant is famed as a natural remedy for wound healing!
Why Do Grasshoppers Bite?
Biting is considered to be a defensive act by a grasshopper who is trying to escape a perceived threat.
Given their ability to leap out of danger, biting is thankfully rare, but if grasshoppers are handled they may respond with a nasty nip.
If you handle a grasshopper directly it is best to hold them by the upper thorax with thumb and forefinger.
Keeping your fingers on the sides of its body behind the head prevents you from being bitten, as some grasshopper species may be capable of articulating their head and delivering a bite.
Watch Out: Avoid handling a grasshopper by its lower body as it has sharp leg spines on its hind legs which it could force into your hand causing irritation.
How to Treat a Grasshopper Bite?
Grasshopper bites are not infectious but nearby bacteria can enter the wound.
Basic first aid should be able to manage a grasshopper bite:
- Thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water and allow it to air dry and begin to heal.
- Any brown regurgitant fluid can be washed off as it is not poisonous.
- Reduce any swelling with an ice pack.
- If needed, you can take pain or anti-allergy medication to manage any irritation that occurs.
Grasshopper wounds are unlikely to require stitches, but if the bite is sustained by a child or swelling and pain from the wound starts to increase, then it is wise to seek medical attention.
Grasshoppers Can Be Beneficial Garden Visitors
If their numbers do not become excessive, grasshoppers play a positive role in maintaining your garden ecosystem:
- Grasshoppers keep many plants from overgrowing
- They contribute to the decomposition and regrowth of vegetation.
- Grasshopper waste is also nutrient-rich and will fertilize your plants and lawn.
- They make a tasty meal for garden visitors like birds, rodents and hedgehogs. Even backyard hens are partial to them!
If You Want to Get Rid of Grasshoppers on Your Property, Here Is How You Can Do It
Large numbers of grasshoppers are definitely a headache for gardeners as they will want to chew on cultivated plants and vegetables.
Ragged, chewed plants are a sure sign of grasshopper activity.
To get rid of your grasshoppers (without getting bitten) you can try the following strategies.
1. Target Known Breeding Sites of Grasshoppers with an Insecticide
If you know where grasshoppers are breeding on your property, you can target them with topical application of an insecticide.
- Spinosad is an organic insecticide that is a by-product of a soil bacterium. It can be purchased as a spray to apply to areas where the grasshoppers breed.
- Nodema locustae spores are from a microbe that specifically kills grasshoppers. It is added to bran which the grasshoppers will eat.
2. Pick the Grasshoppers of Plants
For the brave gardener, grasshoppers can be picked straight off plants and thrown in a bucket of soapy water which will kill them.
3. Apply Garlic Spray
Boil and steep fresh garlic in water overnight.
Pour this pungent liquid in a spray bottle and spray it liberally over your plants to repel the grasshoppers.
4. Sprinkle Flour on Leaves
Applying flour to the leaves of plants the grasshoppers are feeding on will gum up their mouths and put them off returning.
This method requires reapplication after it rains.
5. Use Netting on Your Prize Plants
Raised beds or vegetable patches can be covered with cheesecloth or fine netting so that the grasshoppers cannot access them.
6. Keep Chickens, or Better Still, Ducks
Any grasshoppers on your property will not last long with a flock of inquisitive hens or ducks.
Grasshoppers are a nutritious treat for poultry and you will be rewarded with good-quality eggs.
Ducks are especially effective at targeting pests without damaging your plants.
7. Don’t Let Your Garden Become Overgrown
High grass and overgrown foliage is an open invitation for grasshoppers.
Simply mowing your lawn regularly should be enough to get them to move on.
Grasshoppers are Fascinating Creatures
In small numbers, these insects are unlikely to be dangerous and for most gardeners, their leaping antics are a welcome surprise.
But if you do encounter a grasshopper it is probably best not to handle it and let it hop on its way.