Issue: August 24, 2002

Is there anything grasshoppers won't eat?


I have always wondered about the grasshoppers that attack my garden most years. Is there anything I can plant that they won't eat?


Dr. Carol Sutherland, NMSU Extension Entomologist, told me that there is a grasshopper to eat any plant you may grow. Not all grasshoppers eat all plants; some are very specific while others are not picky eaters at all.

She says that there are at least 160 described species (implying that there may be even others yet to be discovered and described) in New Mexico. A couple of these prefer to eat weeds and could be considered beneficial. Of the remainder, about 40 species have the potential to become major pests. Some of these prefer grasses, others broadleaf plants, and some both. The extent of the problems we have in our landscapes depends on which species are present (usually more than one), how many of them are present, and what they prefer to eat. I find the following statement from Dr. Sutherland very informative. ăShort of rebar, steel, aluminum, adobe, rock, asphalt, and concrete, I canât think of many substances that will be little damaged consistently by grasshoppers of one kind or another.ä So, in one year we may have less problems; in another year, we may have more problems.

Dr. Sutherland also explains that the weather affects the numbers of grasshoppers. Drought, especially in the early spring, can greatly reduce the grasshopper population, and thus, the damage done by grasshoppers. When we irrigate, we help the grasshoppers avoid the spring drought dilemma. Careful and limited irrigation of landscapes may help, but the river valleys are also escape valves for grasshoppers. If they can make it to the valleys, they will survive and be able to migrate to our gardens.

There are chemicals to use, but their effect is limited by the fact that grasshoppers are migratory. Adult grasshoppers have wings and can fly into our gardens. So, after we kill some, new grasshoppers arrive to continue eating our garden plants. Some people prefer the insect diseases that may be purchased as biological control for grasshoppers. These are effective with some species but not all species. Some gardeners claim great success using guinea fowl, turkeys, and other birds that eat grasshoppers. Unfortunately, the birds (biological grasshopper control agents) also eat garden plants.

Grasshoppers are a difficult problem for gardeners in our area. For the very adventurous gardeners, Dr. Sutherland states that grasshoppers are edible and highly nutritious. I think that is good information for the guinea fowl (I am not yet ready to eat grasshoppers).

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!