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Topic: It's a plague

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Subject: It's a plague
Date Posted: 5/29/2012 6:32 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,450
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Three days ago, grasshoppers arrived in N.Arkansas. They exist around here every year, of course, but I have never seen these numbers, or before the middle of July. They are even attacking irises. In three days, they have significantly damaged at least a dozen tomato plants, stripped bare the asparagus fronds, and are sampling anything and everything. The bad thing about a grown grasshopper is that he eats enough to damage a plant before a stomach poison kills him. I am going to mix up some malathion double strength, 25% Seven, double strength, fill my 12 gallon sprayer, and put on my Israeli gas mask and just spray everything. At least my cowpeas and green beans are barely out of the ground, so they aren't showing them any interest. Grasshoppers, like Japanese beetles, start at the top of a plant and work down.

Of course, all this will make little difference to any farmers in Arkansas if it doesn't rain very soon. We have had .4 inches of rain in May, quite likely the dryest May in recorded history.

Date Posted: 5/29/2012 10:11 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2009
Posts: 3,789
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Yikes, that sounds awful.  My biggest gardening foe is slugs -- slimy trails of destruction.  But your grasshopper invasion sounds much worse; hope you can get things growing well again!

Date Posted: 5/29/2012 10:47 PM ET
Member Since: 3/15/2008
Posts: 350
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How disappointing!  If you have plants just coming up, like your cowpeas or green beans, maybe you can use row cover to protect them for a while.

Date Posted: 5/31/2012 4:14 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,450
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Update on the locust/baby grasshopper plague:  At my wits end, I went out today and bought a Chinese knockoff of a Hudson sprayer, loaded it up with Malathion double or triple3 strength, Sevin concentrate the same, put on long sleeves and my Israeli gas mask and set out to save what is left.

Since last post, they have damaged the small cowpeas by about 30%, destroyed 4 peppers I just set out, damaged [but not ruined more than 3 or 4], at least a dozen tomato plants, ate many holes in my eggplants, but not enough to set them back significantly. The Chinese sprayer has to be pumped back up entirely too often to suit me, but it is so much fun watching the grasshoppers die, I had to restrain myself from going out and executing them at random. One whiff of the Malathion and they can fly no further. Now, if only the Sevin will kill them with only one or two bites. I hate to think of the damage these monsters are going to inflict when they grow up.

Three nights in a row we were predicted to get thunderstorms, we got a lot of wind and noise, but maybe 1/4 inch of rain total.

Date Posted: 6/1/2012 3:09 PM ET
Member Since: 7/10/2011
Posts: 2,353
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Bummer!  Hope that things start growing again for you soon, and that you get some rain.

Date Posted: 6/4/2012 6:20 PM ET
Member Since: 1/12/2011
Posts: 2,958
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Hope you've gotten some rain by now. It rained almost non-stop for a couple weeks here in MN, we're finally drying out again but I would have been more than happy to send some of it to you. It's been a strange year, no doubt that's why all the grasshoppers. We seem to have more than our share of hornets and wasps this year but I'll take them over grasshoppers any day.

Date Posted: 6/6/2012 4:14 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,450
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It rained alomst an inch from 5 to 7 Sunday morning; then did about half that much Monday morning. That saved a lot of crops for the time being and kept the grass from dying. Around here, we will be happy to average an inch a week from now to September. Actually, about .6 inch a week would be "average."

Things are not looking good, though, on the grasshopper front. I employed last-ditch efforts to save all crops but tomatoes (beans, peas, corn, squash, cucumbers, peppers). I beefed the concentrate up to 3-4 times what I would use on fruit trees, and am also spraying an area around the whole garden about 6 feet wide. It kills grasshoppers by the pound, but slows them down not much, except for tomatoes, which they show no real desire for. Around the house, they really want several lilac bushes, and have now taken a fancy to rose of sharon blooms. I am spraying these twice a day and hope to save them. One butterfly bush has been stripped, but those things are resilient.

I suppose that in two or three days, when the bottom of the garden has dried out completely, I will replant cucumbers, squash, and cow pear, since I already have enough seed and all I will be wasting is my time. Lima beans, I will plant in the opposite end of the garden where they are not so bad, and hope for the best.

Date Posted: 6/6/2012 10:35 PM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2009
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Aren't you afraid of using so many chemicals around your yard, fruit/vegetable plants?   I really don't know what I'd do in your situation as I wouldn't want to use those kind of chemicals; maybe some kind of a garden-covering mesh that keeps the critters out but lets the sun/rain in?!

Date Posted: 6/7/2012 7:22 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,450
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"Organic gardening" = eating what the worms and bugs don't want.

On the other hand, you will never see me touching anything that kills plants, as in Roundup. The local utilities Co-Op has taken to spraying something similar on their right-of-way unless you specifically object, which I have. The county has been doing the same to the road easements. The result: We just don't have any quail anymore. Their habitat has been destroyed in the name of progress.

I don't like using the Sevin when the fruit trees are in bloom, but the alternative to the blossom-drop spray is a tree full of wormy apples, which I have this year because when the Apples were blooming, I was in Italy. The best I can do is to spray right before dark when almost all of the bees have gone in. Also, 80% Sevin (at 1/3 cup per four gallons of water) is five or ten times less potent than Imidan, which is the only thing available for the blossom-drop spray and the one three weeks later.

Interesting that you mention a mesh. All over N. Italy, where cherries are very important, they prune them no higher than 10-12 feet and cover whole fields with a mesh, otherwise the blackbirds will devour everything. Very expensive, those nets.

Date Posted: 6/8/2012 3:14 AM ET
Member Since: 2/2/2009
Posts: 3,789
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Interesting; I just was wondering if there was an alternative to the chemicals.  I know they suggest some kind of oil spray for fruit trees here, but it has to be sprayed in the dormant season, so I never think about it until it's way too late.  I've learned to live with imperfect apples, etc., myself, since I don't spray, but certainly don't have the kind of onslaught as you have with those grasshoppers.  I have onlh one cherry tree myself, and I do throw a mesh netting thingy over it every year, as the birds will eat the cherries (not actually "eat", more like take one annoyingly singular bite to each cherry!)