Stopping grasshoppers in the garden

A grasshopper on perennial hibiscus.
A grasshopper on perennial hibiscus.

Grasshoppers . . . . I hate the little beasties. This summer seems a banner year for these dahlia munching menaces. I use organic practices in the garden, and I needed a way to combat grasshoppers without killing bees and butterflies. Maintaining the balance of  things is the garden is so important. Luckily, I have assassin bugs and other natural predators, but I also use Nolo bait to kill young grasshoppers. Nolo bait isn’t very effective on adults, but it will stop little, baby grasshoppers in their tracks. This is the brand I buy. I’ve never received any compensation from them except for disappearing grasshoppers, and that’s enough.

Here’s how it works according to an agricultural information sheet from Colorado State University:

“NOLO BAIT may provide suppression of grasshopper and Mormon cricket populations in crop and rangeland. It contains a microsporidial pathogen of grasshoppers. NOLO BAIT infects the fat bodies of most species of grasshoppers and some crickets. Infection and sickness to the grasshoppers from the insect pathogen begins upon ingestion of the bait by the grasshopper. Grasshopper death will begin in 3-6 weeks. The insect pathogen multiplies in infected grasshoppers and will pass from grasshopper to grasshopper and the insect pathogen may remain in the grasshopper population for several years following treatment.”

Grasshopper on Hemerocallis 'Primal Scream' makes me want to scream.
A grasshopper on Hemerocallis ‘Primal Scream’ makes me want to scream.

Oh bummer, pity the little pests. Nolo bait is a biological control and so far, does not seem to hurts other insects or bird populations. Therefore, in my integrated pest management program, Nolo bait makes sense to me at present.

Here’s the rub though, the pathogen is on wheat bran because that is a favorite food of grasshoppers. Being both allergic and intolerant of wheat, I wear gloves when I spread it. Plus, the package says the pathogen can cause skin irritation although I’ve never had that happen. To apply, wet down the leaves of the grasshoppers’ favorite plants. Spread the wheat bran around liberally. Repeat in two weeks. I’ve done two applications, but I was out of town for two weeks so the grasshoppers had a party while I was gone. That’s why I’m doing a third application today.

As for now, the pathogen doesn’t seem to spread to other species. I write that because even organic controls can later become a problem. Also, some organic pesticides are broad spectrum so you should educate yourself before using anything.

In my perennial garden, grasshoppers are a bigger menace than most insects. They devour three of my favorite plants: dahlias, perennial hibiscus and gladiolus along with eating others too. They make neat round holes in the cannas too. These plants round out the summer nicely, and I miss them if they’re gone so out I go to kill more hoppers. I admit a certain glee as I do so.

Nolo bait is also pricey, but losing my plants to the grasshoppers’ constant munching is expensive too.


  1. Debbie says:

    I tried Nolo bait earlier this season, but it didn’t seem to make a dent. Why would the grasshopper prefer dried wheat bran over the lush green leaves of my garden? So far, everything I’ve read about hoppers does not apply to the ones I’m plagued with. I’ve read that a late freeze and wet spring will reduce their numbers. We had both of these conditions this year, and we’ve had more hoppers thn I’ve seen in the almost 25 years I’ve lived in Oklahoma. Nothing I try seems to effect them. Hopefully, they won’t be as bad next year.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Hi Debbie, I can hear your frustration, and believe me, I share it. Here are my thoughts: we had two very bad years of drought and other problems that caused the grasshopper population to explode. I have them everywhere. I’ve applied Nolo Bait three times on the garden, and since it isn’t a pesticide, it works very slowly. What we’re doing now is trying to slow them down. Then, they will eat each other and spread the disease. Gross, I know, but it does work. It just takes a long time. I hope next year I have fewer grasshoppers. I will spread it again and see them reduce their numbers even more. I know it isn’t fast, and the little creeps are frustrating. Hang in there. This wet year should also reduce their numbers for next year.~~Dee

  2. It’s interesting to hear what insects are most problematic in various parts of the world. We have a few grasshoppers here, but our more problematic plant pests are earwigs, slugs, and Japanese beetles. I can deal with the earwigs and slugs with shallow tubs of beer. But Japanese beetles are a bit tougher. Baiting only attracts more and so far, that I know of, there aren’t other organic solutions to deal with them. I just live with them because they don’t usually kill the plant–just munch on it a bit. I’m glad you’ve found an organic treatment for the grasshoppers.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yeah, I wouldn’t bait Japanese beetles. All of the research says it makes things worse. I saw Japanese beetles and some other type of beetle on my roses for the first time this year. I did handpick, but I figure there will be more next year. It’s always something.

  3. Well, that’s one critter I don’t see in my garden. Now if I could only get rid of Japanese beetles and slugs. They are both causing horrendous damage this year. I handpick the JB’s into soapy water, and put down organic slug bait, but it is an on-going battle. P. x

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Isn’t it though? I saw Japanese beetles for the first time this year. I hate them.

  4. brenda says:

    I had to resort to that last year. the brand I used was called Semispore. I noticed some recently but not near as bad as last year. I’ve already sprinkled it around my garden. I hate them, too!

    1. Dee Nash says:

      They are bad and voracious creatures.

  5. Crickets? It hurts crickets? 🙁

    1. Dee Nash says:

      It’s my understanding it only hurts one type of cricket, but I could be wrong. I don’t know how the crickets here could get to it. The grasshoppers muscle their way into the buffet.

  6. Grasshoppers are really doing a number on some of my plants around here, too. Coincidentally, I just did a post on them before checking through my reading list and finding your post. I’m sure it’s the combination of heat and drought that have ramped up their numbers so significantly around here. I just keep telling myself that this, too, shall pass.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Oh how funny that you did a post too. You can see where our thoughts lie. They’ve been awful, but this late rain will help to kill them too. I put out the bait three times this summer. It’s a slow process, but I hope they are gone soon.

  7. Martha says:

    Hi Dee –
    I’m with Kathy, NOLO is new to me and I haven’t had much grasshopper damage this year. Do you think maybe yours is because it’s been so dry?

    Hope you get them under control. Last year during the drought they were everywhere in NE OK and eating their way through everything standing.

    1. Dee Nash says:

      Yes, I think it’s the drought we had for the last two years. Oddly, grasshoppers love heat and drought. This year, with more moderate weather and the bait I hope to get them under control.

  8. I had never heard of Nolo bait before. We have grasshoppers here, but they don’t seem to do a lot of damage. At least, not enough to be singled out.

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