We've been noticing a lot of grasshoppers on the sunflowers along the south side of the house. John's dad loves sunflowers, and he planted dozens of them. Back on Long Island, the sunflowers never grew above a foot tall before rabbits or chipmunks destroyed them. The chipmunks in particular adored the seeds, and dug up the seeds and seedlings faster than Jack could plant them. Not so in Virginia. He was able to get quite the crop started and now we have towering eight foot high, glorious sunflowers growing against the house. They remind me of our trip to South Dakota, when John stopped the car along the highway just to take a picture of the miles and miles of sunflowers growing in the farmer's fields.
But one thing we've noticed on our own sunflowers are grasshoppers - and lots of them. The photo above shows one on a sunflower. The gray area is Pierre the cat. John holds Pierre up to the sunflower and the grasshoppers turn away. They hop a bit to one side. We've tried it several times and no matter how quiet Pierre is, they seem to know he's a predator!
I didn't know anything about grasshoppers, so I looked them up on Wikipedia. What I learned is that our insect visitors are probably katydids, rather than grasshoppers, because katydids have long horns and grasshoppers, short ones (who knew?). I also learned that they do eat plants, and that's the cause of the big holes in our sunflower leaves. The most fascinating fact is that they can camoflage themselves and change colors! So that explains why we see brown ones on the ground and green ones on the sunflowers.
The damage to the leaves is unsightly, but doesn't seem to bother the sunflowers, so we are not doing anything about the grasshoppers. Sitting in the house and watching them leap from plant to plant entertains Pierre, after all!
My latest gardening articles are posted to various websites, so if you have a minute, check them out - also have a new alternate health article on the benefits of drinking tea.