Q: Grasshoppers have invaded my garden and are munching on all the tender young tomato plants. They have decimated one entire bed of veggie transplants. How can I get rid of these pests?

Thanks for any advice. Mary

A: Not knowing what style of gardening you practice (scorched-earth or earth mother), I'm going to suggest alternate courses of action.

If you're a lock-and-load, take-no-prisoners, I want 'em dead-dead-dead now type, you should try a broad-spectrum, chemical insecticide such as carbaryl. You'll find it in Bayer Advanced Complete Insect Killer, which is widely available at home and garden centers. Follow label directions carefully. Keep it on the foliage, not the fruit.

Now if you're the earth-mama type but still want the problem solved before your plants are just a theory, I'll give you a few natural-organic solutions that seem kinder and gentler, but still result in dearly departed grasshoppers.

1. Neem oil -- This plant-based extract smells and tastes horrible to insects and disrupts their metabolism. You can buy this at garden centers or online.

2. Diatomaceous earth -- This white fluffy stuff that comes in a bag looks like talcum powder. It's made up from the exoskeletons of microscopic algae called diatoms. It slices through the exoskeletons of insects and other pests, causing the goo inside to ooze out. Just dust it on the leaves and stems. If rain washes it off, you have to dust again. Again, you can find this locally and online.

3. Pyola -- Not the same as payola, which is money kickbacked to radio stations. Pyola is a broad-spectrum natural insecticide made from combining an extract of chrysanthemum flowers with plain old canola oil. Very eco-friendly. You can order it from

Hope this helps. Now get out there and kill something!!! Grumpy

Q: Dear Grumpy, Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. I probably fall somewhere in between the scorched-earth and earth mother mode. I have a huge lot in the middle of town and work 40 hours a week so I would love to be completely eco-friendly but it just does not always happen.

With the Bayer solution, it will be too difficult to keep that stuff off the fruit. So, on to your earth-momma suggestions:

Neem oil - the stuff I've read says it's best used during the 'nymph stage'. Apparantly grasshoppers go through several nymph stages. How do I know where in the cycle they are? Is it calendar or air temperature based?

DE - this sounds like the best solution but will it hurt the toads I am growing from tadpoles? These were to be my defense but they are not progressing into toads quickly enough.

Pyola - ditto my DE questions. OK for toads?

Thanks so much. I just wanna kill hoppers - now!


A: Dear Mary, The nymph stage in grasshoppers (also known as the "Paris Hilton stage") refers to an immature grasshopper that is somewhat smaller than an adult and does not yet have wings, so it can't fly. It sure can eat, though. When it attains this stage depends on the food supply and when it hatched out. I haven't heard of diatomaceous earth having any adverse affect on toads -- unless, of course, you drop them in a bucket of it, which would make you a really mean person. Pyola should not hurt toads either. You spray it on the plants, not the ground. And because it's made with canola oil, it won't raise their cholesterol. Grumpy