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Last summer I had a problem with black grasshoppers with yellow stripes on them, which I identified as Lubbers. Now I grow everything organically and all my plants are heirloom varieties, so last year these insects plowed through my garden and basically ate everything. This year I hope to circumvent this catastrophe before it happens again.

How can I get rid of or keep away these lubber grasshoppers in an organic earth friendly way?

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Organic or low toxicity control of insects uses a different set of tools than the 'spray and pray' approach. These points apply to any issue that needs to be controlled.

  • observation is your first tool. Where are they coming from, when do the juveniles show up, what crops do they prefer? (If the answers are from everywhere, all during the spring and they eat everything then this could be a tough year)
  • timing is everything. The time to start control is when you see the nymphs. They are easier to control when they are smaller. At this time of year (April) the young should have emerged and be visible. Lubbers do not fly well, move slowly and are relatively large compared to other insects. Mechanical removal by handpicking or a butterfly net when they are young will reduce the damage that the adults could do later. Wear gloves and old clothes when doing this as they have a number of unsavory habits like exuding a foamy spray when menaced.
  • identify any areas on or near your property where young will hatch. In the case of the lubber this will be drier areas, possibly where there is tall grass. Consider early spring tilling in these areas if they are on your property.
  • try and plant your garden so you can use floating row covers to protect your crops
  • cut down areas of tall weeds or grass and trim growth in ditches where they gather before moving onto your crops

Everything I read about control mentions chemical pesticides but I think it would be worth a try to use soap and water on the juveniles. Like any arthropod if their breathing spiracles are covered up they will die. Soap and water does an excellent job on soft bodied insects and should work on the immature nymphs.

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Natural means.

Almost all the birds are very active predators of grasshoppers, especially in the period in which to look after children. Guinea fowl, in particular, may be employed to contain the infestations in the vicinity of corporate centers, holiday cottages and homes. Numida meleagris, pharaos images

There are also several preparations of biological origin potentially active, on locusts and newborn being tested. However, are not yet recorded in Italy and, accordingly, are not yet usable on a wide scale. After some experience in the '80s, the biological control of locusts through the use of Pharaoh, was revived on a large scale in recent years. In some provinces of the region have been implemented some successful pilot initiatives subsequently adopted in other Italian regions.

The locusts have other natural enemies: among the main are the entomopathogenic fungus Entomophthora grylli, that attacks and kills the adults, and the beetle meloide Epicauta rufidorsum, whose larva lives in the soil and is very active in prey eggs. The action of these factors of containment natural must be preserved even if, often, is not sufficient to contain the most serious infestations.

Some microorganisms (fungi, bacteria and protozoa) favored by high humidity and rainy seasons, causing life-threatening infections. Small insectivorous mammals (hedgehogs, mice and shrews), most of wild animals (guinea fowl, ducks, and turkeys) and many wild birds (partridges, pheasants, quail, sparrows and raptors -kestrels and buzzards-). Even more effective are the arthropods and between these spiders and, especially, insects. This year was found a high presence of Meloidi beetles, whose larvae actively prey on the eggs of grasshoppers in the ground.

These factors limiting natural, though important, are not sufficient to reduce quickly the pulses may grasshoppers.

Mechanical means.

During the birth of nymphs or otherwise on the first juveniles are possible attempts to contain the infestation with suitable mechanical means (eg rollers), making interventions in the evening or at night when the nymphs are concentrated and property. Speaking with the same criteria you can get good results even with mobile vacuums, and barriers (and other networks) can be used to defend the gardens or other urban environments. These barriers can be combined with insecticidal baits based on spinosad (+), a product of natural origin low toxicity to people and pets that in any case be used in a localized manner.

(+) It is used a bait, based on spinosyn, derived from the metabolism of fermentation of a bacterium attinomicete (Saccharopolyspora spinosa) found in soil. The spinosyn is toxic to bees. So I am personally against the use of this fungus, almost harmless to humans but highly toxic to bees. We need bees! .....

All interventions to fight, to be effective, must be made before the dispersal of adult locusts.

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P.S. Here, in Italy, it is possible to buy larvae of Epicauta rufidorsum, at the main agricultural consortia.

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Trap crops may be effective at keeping the grasshoppers away from your usual plants. I've heard that trap crops can be effective for grasshoppers. Lubbers sound even more voracious than regular grasshoppers, though. So, I don't know how effective this will be.

I'm not sure about Lubbers, but grasshoppers in our area seem to prefer amaranth (the weed version we have) and comfrey. So, you might look into those and other plants.

Amaranth is easy to grow fast. It's a leafy annual that produces lots of seeds.

Comfrey takes a few years, but is a perennial (it also attracts bumble bees). Once established, it will grow back easily if the leaves are entirely removed. (It can be difficult to get rid of it, in fact.) So, if the Lubbers eat all the vegetation, it shouldn't be a worry (after the first few years).

For the Eastern Lubber, they say removing water sources may help. They like to nest near them. Lubbers are toxic to opossums and some kinds of birds, unlike regular grasshoppers. So, attracting birds won't help much if they're the wrong kind of birds, unfortunately.

Loggerhead Shrikes are supposed to be Lubber predators. I'm not sure how to attract them.

Dusting or spraying your plants with diatomaceous earth might deter them. I don't know, though.

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