Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Year of the Grasshopper




Look how intricate his markings are. Almost looks like lace.

Who knew there were so many different kinds? If you didn't know, we have had a grasshopper invasion this year and they are driving me CRAZY!

I wrote a column for the Gering Citizen a while back concerning grasshoppers. Here it is if you missed it along with some pictures I have taken of these despicable things.

(Remember that you can click on the pictures to view a full screen version of the shot, hit your browser's back button to return to the blog. These pictures are really cool if you click on them! Really they are!)

It Could Be Worse

I thought I would take a break from my “Buy Local” soapbox and talk about something completely off the subject. I want, or is it that I need, to talk about grasshoppers. That's right. Grasshoppers. I think I can honestly say that I loathe them more than I detest our Western Nebraska wind. I don't know how bad the grasshoppers are in town or at your house, but let me tell you how awful they are out here where I live.

I spent most of the day today working outside. First thing this morning at 5:30 am I went on my morning walk with my neighbor. There are so many grasshoppers in the borrow pit alongside the road that it sounds as if a small herd of cattle are walking along side us in the grass. I caught myself looking behind me a couple of times to see if something was following us but there wasn't anything there except for the grasshoppers. Peggy told me that she thought that her sweetcorn was drying up and turning brown but upon further observation, she said that it was completely covered with grasshoppers. My husband thought the same thing about one of our fields of alfalfa which was also covered with grasshoppers.

Young one, look at his wings. I don't think they are fully developed yet.

After our walk it was time for me to take care of the chickens. Even the chickens are sick and tired of the grasshoppers. When the chick are young and still in the brooder, a stray grasshopper who happens to get in the brooder with the little peeps is one sorry fellow. The poor hopper is immediately spotted by the chicks' keen eyesight and a game of “keep away” instantly breaks out. I like to throw grasshoppers into the brooder for a cheap form of entertainment. It never grows old. But on the other hand, the chickens who are old enough to be in the movable pens and out on the pasture have lost their enthusiasm for the hoppers.

When I feed the chickens each morning and night they always come running to greet me as I come into their fenced pasture. We keep them in paddocks with about 100 chickens in each paddock. So picture this if you will... 100 chickens running towards me, eager to get their grain, along with hundreds of grasshoppers jumping every which way and the chickens are actually dodging the grasshoppers! Instead of gobbling up these tasty treats, the chickens are actually trying to avoid them. I guess they are sick of eating them. At least the chickens know when to say “when” and aren't such gluttons that they gorge themselves and eat themselves sick!

Weird Green One

Black One, you don't see too many of these.

Once the chickens are taken care of, it is time to irrigate. All of our irrigating is done by hand with tubes and ditch. The grasshoppers are in several of our fields. What I hate the most about irrigating is when I am walking with my irrigation boots on and a grasshopper jumps straight down my boot. I wear shorts so there isn't a pant leg to stop the hoppers plight straight down the boot. I hate how their legs have those little pinchers that grab onto your skin. I hate having to stop every 50 feet to empty my boot and get rid of the hopper before it goes down any further and gets squashed by my foot. And let me tell you, it isn't very fun driving the four wheeler 25mph with a gazillion grasshoppers flying at you every which way. I'm always afraid one is going to fly into my mouth when I'm talking. I've seriously contemplated wearing a full face motorcycle helmet and biker leathers to combat the hoppers while driving the four wheeler.

The grasshoppers have managed to eat most of my garden. My tomatoes are the only thing that they haven't devoured, yet. Last year when the grasshoppers were so bad, they devoured almost every new plant that I bought and planted. This year I told myself NOT to waste the money on any new plants because the experts were forecasting that the hoppers would be as bad as they were last year, if not worse. Well, I couldn't resist and bought two new apple trees to replace the cherry trees that the hoppers destroyed last year. The apple trees are nearly stripped clean of their leaves now.

Look how he blends into the leaf. Love his pink and green coloring!

I can not imagine how bad the grasshopper plagues during the 1870's and 1930's were. I've heard of complete fields of corn being devoured within an hour, livestock dying because of the lack of feed due to the grasshoppers. I read that the conventional wisdom was that hoppers liked salt, and so they would eat the shirt off your back, or wherever else sweat landed like hoe handles or wooden tongues of horse-drawn equipment. The grasshoppers ate household items like curtains and even the paint off of buildings along with fence posts. And how about the stories of cars squishing so many hoppers that the roads became slick. There were even reports that trains couldn't get up hills because the hoppers' bodies "greased" the tracks.

So all in all, I really do detest grasshoppers but am extremely thankful that our situation is not as bad as it could be. I wonder what chocolate covered grasshoppers taste like?

Check out this contortionist!

Weird eyes!

It was a dark and stormy night...
Hope I don't have grasshopper nightmares tonight! LOL

Hey, what is this picture doing in here?
A Lady on a fainting couch??

Oh look, it's a grasshopper on her fainting couch!

Actually, I think this hopper is dead.
Too bad, so sad.

Check out his hind leg,

then check out this guy's leg.

Notice the subtle differences between the grasshoppers?

or not!

Grasshopper enjoying one of my tomatoes.

Thanks for saving me some, you jerk!

Whoo-hoo, love this spider!
She's wrapping up the grasshopper like a tamale to eat later!

And last, but not least, for your viewing pleasure...

... a video of grasshoppers destroying a sunflower plant.

If you turn up your sound and listen carefully you can
actually hear the grasshoppers eating.


Hurry Mr. Jack Frost! The grasshoppers are dying to meet you!

That's it, the End!

1 comment:

  1. The bright green critters are katydids. They are in the same order as grasshoppers, but have different life strategies. The grasshoppers that you point out with the subtle difference in leg markings are the differential grasshopper (the one with the chevron-like markings) and the two-lined grasshopper. Unfortunately, the forecast is for another warm fall. So, I am concerned that we have a non-zero chance that our grasshopper population may be worse next year than this year.

    Even then, our grasshopper population will not be (probably will never be) as bad as it was in the late 1800's. The grasshoppers (actually locusts) that caused problems in the 1800's are extinct but they caused extensive damage to crops and livestock on a level that has never been documented before except in North Africa.

    Cheers - J. Bradshaw, Entomologist.