EDITOR’S NOTE: University of Florida/IFAS Extension Director for Nassau County and Environmental Horticulture Agent III, Rebecca Jordi, addresses questions about landscaping and gardening in northeast Florida. She is also a University of Florida faculty member.
__GARDEN TALK Q & A ___
QUESTION: What is the name of the flying grasshopper I am seeing all over my open field. Whenever I walk through the wildflowers, I can see this grasshopper flying. JJ
JORDI: It might be the American grasshopper, Schistocerca Americana. When found in large numbers, the American grasshopper can cause serious damage to agriculture crops and landscape plantings. There are short and long wing varieties. The short winged grasshoppers do not fly as often or as far as the long winged ones.
The American grasshopper is generally tan to brown in color with specked wings. The female lay from 60 – 80 eggs which take about 3-4 weeks to hatch. Initially, they stay in small clusters until they become more mature. The nymphs, or youth stage, may start out green but will ultimately change to the brownish color.
The American grasshopper can cause injury to citrus, corn, cotton, oats, peanuts, rye, sugarcane, tobacco and vegetables. This species receives attention in Florida due its defoliation of young citrus trees. The plants are damaged by the grasshopper gnawing on the leaves, and young vegetable plants can be eaten to the ground. Most of the feeding damage is caused by the third, fourth, and fifth instar nymphs. Aside from commercial crops, the American grasshopper also shows a preference for several species of grasses: bahiagrass, bermudagrass, crabgrass, nutgrass and woodsgrass. It also feeds on dogwood, hickory, citrus and palm trees. Best management of these and any other grasshopper is to control the weeds surrounding the plants we want to protect. Chemical controls such as insect growth regulators (IGRs) work best with the insects is very small – in the nymph stage. Of course, you can always use the Jordi method of grab, squash and stomp to control them too!! I am told they are not bad as fish bait either – full circle of life!
QUESTION: I am finding this plant all over my beach front property. It is invasive? CB
JORDI: I appreciate you bringing in a clipping of this plant which always makes it much easier to identify. It is not an invasive plant but rather a native coastal plant called silverleaf croton, Croton punctatus. It is also know by other common names such as Gulf Croton and Beach-tea. It is classified as an annual or a short-lived perennial reproducing by seeds. I have attached a photo of the seedhead which was taken from Mr. Duncan at the University of Georgia. Silverleaf croton loves the sandy soils of coastal beach areas and is extremely drought tolerant. Silverleaf croton is one of many important sand dune plants essential for reducing erosion by keeping the sand dunes in place. It can provide shelter for small animals and invertebrates.
QUESTION: I found this creature walking in my yard right after Tropical Storm Debby. At first, I thought it was a scorpion, but upon closer examination, it did not have a stinger. It looks like a small lobster, but I live in Hilliard, far from the ocean. What can you tell me about it? JS
JORDI: Thank you so much for sending in a photo, it is always so much easier to identify when we have some point of reference. It is not unusual to find crayfish in most any amount of fresh water; they do not live in ocean salt water unlike their distant relatives – lobsters. Crayfish can even survive in fresh water ditches as long as they are not too polluted.
Crayfish are crustaceans, similar to shrimp, lobster and crab. They have ten legs, eyes on stalks and a hard exoskeleton on the outside of their body. The front two are large pinching claws called Chellae. These claws are use to capture their prey and to defend themselves – try to keep your fingers out of reach!!
Crayfish eat plants and small animals such as insects, worms, frog and toads. They are an important part of the food chain as they are eaten by raccoons, opossums, and snakes. They can be eaten by humans (just add some Cajun seasoning) and are often used as fish bait.
Rebecca L. Jordi
County Extension Director
UF/IFAS Environmental Horticulture
Nassau County Extension
543350 U.S. Highway #1
Callahan, FL 32011
904 491-7340 or 904 879-1019