Locusts and the Community Garden

The state government has put everyone on high alert, saying we could be facing the worst locust plague in 75 years. It’s hard to know whether we should be alarmed, alert, or just a bit cynical about the warnings. But the scale of the egg beds being found in northern Victoria suggests we may have a big problem this season.

Locusts are grasshopper species which occur as swarms. The Australian Plague Locust is the one we should be on the watch for. It has a black patch at the tip of the hind-wing and some scarlet on the hind-legs and is active during the day (unlike crickets which are nocturnal).  Not all grasshoppers are bad, either, they can have a place in the garden.

Despite the government focus on chemical control, there are some non chemical control methods. A friend has plans to add them to her diet, after all they are a traditional Asian cuisine! But if you don’t want to go that far, some other options include:

Suggested Organic Strategies from Green Harvest:

  • exclusion using fabric or biomesh – a frostguard fabric can also double as pest guard if the mesh is fine enough. Specific fabrics, such as biomesh, are designed to keep insects (good as well as bad) away from crops.
  • Attract them to a pond or children’s wading pool by floating pieces of yellow plastic in the water.
  • Smaller traps can be made out of yellow buckets filled with water and a 10% molasses solution.  Cover with a film of oil to deter bees and mosquitoes;
  • Get up early in the morning when they are very slow moving, handpick them or catch them in a butterfly net;
  • Birds are a major control, including domestic varieties such as chooks and guinea fowl;in inland areas ibis are a critical predator. Consider a chook run around the outside of your vege patch so the chickens can patrol the exterior and catch incoming hoppers.
  • Beneficial insects such as tachinid flies and parasitic wasps prey on grasshoppers. Plant a Good Bug Mix to provide a food source for the adult predators, including plants such as dill, coriander, queen anne’s lace, clover, sweet alice, caraway, anise. Border plantings are a good practice.
  • lizatrds, snakes, frogs, ants, fungi and worms are other natural controllers
  • They are attracted to yellow. Sticky yellow traps, yellow buckets with water and molasses. They are also attracted to canola oil so mix this in with organic insecticides such as pyrethrum. a chilli or galic spray may also work.

HOME MADE CHILLI SPRAY

Blend together half a cup of fresh chillies with 2 cups of water. Add a dash of dishwashing liquid to improve sticking. If you have no chillies substitute with 2 tablespoons of Tabasco sauce. Always spray a small section of the plant to check for leaf burn. Check in 24 hours and if there is no damage spray all the plants you want to protect. Leaf burn with any spray is more likely to occur during hot weather.

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