Lubber Grasshoppers

Lubber Grasshoppers

NPS Photo/Jennette Jurado

Grasshopper Invasion

From mid-summer to early fall, the roads in the Big Bend area may be covered with huge grasshoppers. Desert shrubs may be so laden with these large insects that their branches bend under the excess weight. Entomologists have identified 115 species of grasshoppers and katydids in Big Bend National Park, but none attract as much attention as these “lubbers,” which stand out due to their size, bright colors, and sheer abundance.

Lubber grasshoppers are about three inches in length. Their wide, heavy bodies are shiny black with yellow pinstripes, and you’ll see the flash of their rose-red wings when they fly. Like all other grasshoppers, they have strong mandibles for chewing. They are often seen in great numbers in the foliage of desert plants like mesquites and acacias,where they devour enormous amounts of leaves. They also eat their own dead, which leads to the piles of dead grasshoppers on the roads: when these slow-moving grasshoppers are killed by traffic, other grasshoppers come out to eat them and are often hit, and then even more cannibals come out to feed on them.

As in other animals, the bright coloration on the lubber grasshoppers indicates that they are toxic. Small mammals have vomited violently and even died after eating them. Birds, too, have died after eating them. Lubber grasshoppers sometimes secrete a foamy spray containing irritating compounds from their thoracic, or mid-body, region.

In addition to being virtually inedible, lubber grasshoppers appear to be highly heat tolerant, perhaps more than most other insects. They are often seen walking on roads in the heat of summer afternoons, when the surface temperature on the asphalt measures over 135 degrees.

Pick up a lubber, and you’ll hear loud hissing as it forces air out of its spiracles, or breathing holes. It may also spit “tobacco juice” when handled. This brown liquid consists of partially-digested food material along with semi-toxic compounds, and it stains skin and clothing.

www.nps.gov

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Fun Grasshopper Facts for Kids

Check out our fun grasshopper facts for kids. Learn about the many different species of grasshopper, how far a grasshopper can jump, how locusts are a type of grasshopper and much more.

Read on and enjoy a variety of interesting information about grasshoppers.

Grasshoppers are an insect from the suborder Caelifera and the order Orthoptera.

Locusts are actually species of short-horned grasshoppers, they often gather in large swarms and can destroy entire fields of crops, because a single grasshopper can eat half its body weight in plants per day. In just the U.S. they cause about $1.5 billion in damage to grazing lands each year.

There are around 11,000 known species of grasshopper found around the world, often inhabiting grassy fields, meadow and forest areas.

Grasshoppers have two antennae, 6 legs, two pairs of wings and small little pinchers to tear off food such as grasses, leaves and cereal crops.

Some species of grasshopper species make noises by either rubbing their back legs against the forewings or body, or by snapping their wings when flying.

Grasshoppers grow to around 2 inches (5 cm), with some growing as big as 5 inches (12.7cm). Female are usually larger than males.

Grasshoppers are often colored in a way that camouflages them in their local habitat, green ones in grassy fields, sandy colored in dirt and desert areas.

Grasshoppers can jump about 25cm high and around 1 meter long. If humans could jump as far as grasshoppers do, relative to size, then we could leap more than the length of a football field.

The grasshopper can jump as far as it does because its hind legs act like miniature catapults. It bends its legs at the knee, mechanism within the knee works like a spring, storing up energy. When the grasshopper is ready to jump, it relaxes the leg muscles, allowing the spring to release flinging it into the air.

Grasshoppers are commonly eaten in African, Central and South American countries, the insect is a very good source of protein.

www.sciencekids.co.nz

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Locusts. Grasshoppers. Bees. Wasps. Biblical insects, all.

Why pay attention to locusts and grasshoppers?

Animal characters in Hebrew Bible are never random. The authors know their biology. And they know their ecology. And they assume that you do too. So if you know how an animal lives, then you can understand its role in a story, and you can deeply receive the story’s spiritual message.

Today’s animal is…the grasshopper. A strong supporting character throughout Hebrew Bible.

Isaiah invokes grasshoppers…also known as locusts

The Prophet Isaiah says, “Don’t you get it? God dwells above the circle of the earth, and those who dwell on earth are like grasshoppers” (Isaiah 40: 21-22).

From the human perspective, grasshoppers are really small. About the size of an adult’s thumb. From this human perspective, Isaiah reminds us that God is infinitely creative, powerful, everlasting, energetic, and wise – while we are only kinda sorta a little bit creative and wise, with a little bit of power and a little bit of energy.

But from the grasshopper’s perspective, a grasshopper is not small at all. It’s just the right size. The right size to inspect grassy grains, to see how plants grow, and decide what to eat. And the right size to launch a leap with a height 10x the grasshopper’s length…and a distance 20x the grasshopper’s length. The grasshopper is just the right size to vault up…and catch a glimpse of heaven as it travels. Isaiah wants us to know that we may be small, but we can glimpse the infinity of God. Just like the grasshopper!

Grasshoppers carry sparks of divinity

Isaiah’s poetic Hebrew gives us two hints of the grasshopper’s spirituality. Two hints that the grasshopper holds a little spark of the essence of God. Isaiah uses the same word to talk about how God lives, and how the grasshopper lives. God yoshev, dwells, above the earth, and the grasshopper is among the earth’s in-dwellers, yoshveiha. Both God and the grasshopper “dwell.”

Isaiah also draws a connection between where God lives and the word for “grasshopper.” God dwells above the chug, the circle, of planet earth, and earth-dwellers are like chagavim, the grasshoppers. Can you hear the alliteration? Yoshev, yoshveiha; Chug, chagavim. A grasshopper may look small to us, but God’s life and the grasshopper’s life are connected.

Don’t underestimate the grasshoppers

Isaiah presses this message because misunderstanding a grasshopper’s power can have terrible consequences. As it does in this story from the Book of Numbers (Num. 13:1-14:39). The Israelites are camped in the wilderness, somewhere between Egypt and Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey. God says to Moses, “Get yourself twelve scouts. Twelve distinguished people with good leadership qualities. Send them to scout out this land of Canaan where you’ll be living. You can hear straight from them what kind of a land it is.”

Moses appoints the scouts, and sends them out. Forty days later, the scouts come back. They report to Moses in front of all the people. They say: “This is indeed a land flowing with milk and honey. Just look at these grapes and pomegranates and figs we brought back! They’re gigantic! But so are the people. Next to them, we looked to ourselves like grasshoppers.”

As soon as the people hear the word “grasshoppers,” they start yelling and crying. They become terrified. They rail against Moses and Aaron. “Why did God bring us to the wilderness just to kill us. We might as well die right here and now!”

And God says, “You know, you’re right. You are not ready to enter the land. You’ll get your wish to die in the wilderness. When the next generation grows up, they’ll have the opportunity to enter the land flowing with milk and honey.”

When grasshoppers become locusts

Why do the people become afraid as soon as they hear “we looked to ourselves like grasshoppers”? Because they are thinking only of how small the grasshopper’s body is. They’ve forgotten about the grasshopper’s extraordinary jump, and the glimpses it gets of heaven every time it jumps.

And they’ve forgotten one more important thing about grasshoppers. They’ve forgotten about grasshopper transformation. When a big group of grasshoppers get together, their bodies and their minds change. They become migratory locusts.

For years, modern biologists tried to identify the baby form of a migratory locust. But they couldn’t find any babies – until entomologist Boris Uvarov figured it out in the early 20 th century. When desert drought gets extreme, and only a few tiny patches of moist grass can be found, grasshoppers congregate there. When the area gets so crowded that the grasshoppers can’t move without rubbing up against one another, their brain chemistry literally changes. Their serotonin levels rise. Their bodies harden. They eat more. Mate more. Develop a group mind. And they fly off together, a billion strong, in search of food. Once they’ve swarmed, nothing can stand in their way. Your field becomes their lunch. Their dinner. And their breakfast.

Biblical locusts are mission specialists

In Hebrew Bible, locust swarms are God’s armies. Their deployment is never random. Locusts are mission specialists. Sometimes people forget that a creative, energetic, and wise God dwells above the chug, the circle of the earth. That’s when the locusts, the community of chagavim, grasshoppers, show up.

They visit Pharaoh in the Exodus story. Pharaoh is not a fan of inclusive community. He feels terribly threatened by immigrants. Especially the numerous Israelites. So he oppresses them, enslaves them, kills them. God sends a message, “Let my people go.” Pharaoh ignores God and ignores God’s message. So God sends a giant community, a swarm of locusts, to strip Pharaoh’s fields. Pharaoh doesn’t get it, but his advisors do. They say, “Let the people go, so they can worship their God!”

Locusts: A powerful community

Locusts visit the Israelites in the time of the prophet Joel. Years of abundant harvest have destroyed Joel’s community. Agribusiness has created huge divisions between exploitive landowners and desperate day laborers. Rich and poor alike have forgotten that their number one religious responsibility is to look out for the welfare of others. So, God sends a giant community, a swarm of locusts, to remind them. When the locusts consume the fields, the prophet Joel sees the power of their community. And he calls his people into community to start over together (Joel 1-4).

And now you see, that Isaiah’s little reference to the grasshopper is not little at all. Isaiah hints at the locusts. He hints at Pharaoh, at Joel, at the power of inclusive community. After mentioning the grasshopper, Isaiah continues. “God brings princes to naught, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, when God blows upon them, and they wither. Lift up your eyes on high and see: Who created these? The One who brings out their host and counts them, calling them all by name. Because God is great in strength, mighty in power, not one fails to show up.” (Isaiah 40:23-26)

What can we learn from Isaiah’s grasshoppers?

Isaiah just about says that we are the grasshoppers. We’re tiny, in the grand scheme of creation. Sometimes we get lost in our solitary concerns. But when times get tough, we glimpse a different spiritual possibility. We gather into community to support one another. In community, we become strong, we find a political voice, and we inspire other communities.

Isaiah speaks to the community of Judeans returning from exile in 530 BCE. Today, our communities include synagogues, mosques, churches and temples. They can include networks of spiritual groups across traditions. When our connections are strong, no one can divide us for political gain.

Originally presented as a sermon at Highlands United Church, on Vancouver School of Theology Sunday, Feb 4, 2018.

www.sophiastreet.com

Where does grasshopper come from usa

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Today our commitment to helping entrepreneurs is stronger than ever, and we continue to develop new and innovative tools to help them change the world.

Grasshopper employees are outstanding at what they do, and we expect nothing less from prospective candidates. We’re looking for dynamic team players that set the bar high, and then surpass it.

We’re not talking about automatically though- you’ve got to have a little soul. That means we expect you to play as hard as you work.

Luckily, at Grasshopper it’s possible to do both.

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Grasshoppers Jump into the United States Food Market

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Hargol FoodTech, the first company to produce large quantities of grasshoppers for human consumption, is now distributing to manufacturers in the United States. Grasshoppers CAN BE a source of healthy protein and nutrients, including iron and Vitamin C. Hargol’s primary product is currently grasshopper flour, and they hope to sell whole grasshoppers and food additives in the near future.

Farming grasshoppers is less damaging to the climate than the meat and dairy industries because significantly less greenhouse gases are produced, production is less resource intensive, and less land is required. Previously, grasshoppers were harvested from nature because they are difficult to grow in captivity. Hargol overcame these hurdles with innovations such as an incubator and vertical infrastructure, adhering to recently approved animal welfare policy recommendations from the United Nations.

Hargol, formerly Steak Tzar Tzar, has garnered praise from numerous food-related organizations for their innovation. Food Tank had the opportunity to discuss Hargol FoodTech and grasshopper farming with the company’s Co-Founder and CEO, Dror Tamir.

Hargol FoodTech Team

Food Tank (FT): What are the impacts of grasshopper production? Is grasshopper production something that can be done on a large scale?

Dror Tamir (DT): With the need for alternative healthier and more sustainable protein sources, grasshoppers provide a superior solution in every aspect: better nutrition, higher efficiency of farming, and minimal processing. Many insect farmers (both crickets and mealworms) tried to grow grasshoppers. All of them failed because grasshoppers are challenging.

We cracked the code to growing grasshoppers. We can grow them year-round by hatching their eggs in our incubators in two weeks vs. nine months in the wild, and we can grow them vertically at high density, producing much more biomass per square foot compared to crickets, with the innovative cage infrastructure we developed. Other advantages of our infrastructure are better sanitation, with the automatic removal of feces, and better ventilation and humidity control, making our facility safer for insects and humans. And it is a zero waste operation.

When considering intensive farming, one has to start with the animal. Grasshoppers’ tendency to swarm makes them ideally suited for it. Combining grasshoppers’ tendency to swarm with our methods and technology results in the ability to grow them in large scale, year round, at a high efficiency. We are already doing it, and our products will reach the U.S. market this month!

FT: How does the product compare to beef nutritionally?

DT: Grasshoppers are superior to beef not only in nutrition content. It is much more efficient and sustainable. Grasshoppers contain way more protein than beef with a whopping 72-percent protein content including all essential amino acids. They do not contain saturated fat or cholesterol. They do not contain antibiotics or hormones. And they also contain omega-3, iron, zinc, folic acid, B12, and Chitin, which slows our metabolism and may assist in losing weight.

FT: How do grasshoppers compare to other insects, such as crickets and mealworms, as both a source of protein and ease of production?

DT: Grasshoppers are superior to crickets and mealworms in every aspect. They contain 20-percent more protein compared to crickets (and much more compared to mealworms). They do not contain saturated fat and cholesterol; the other two do. Grasshoppers have neutral taste and flavor compared to a distinct taste and flavor of crickets and mealworms, making them a better ingredient for food manufacturers. And most important—their tendency to swarm makes them better suited for intensive farming.

FT: You grow several species of grasshoppers. Why the variety? How do they differ?

DT: We worked with several species of grasshoppers when we were developing the ability to farm because we wanted to increase our chances of cracking the code to growing them. We have been successful with three species so far, reducing egg incubation periods from months to weeks. Other advantages of working with several species are:

The opportunity to grow them in different locations around the globe as each species grows in different territories.

Different nutritional content allows different applications for each species.

Market demand is different in different markets and populations, especially where grasshoppers are eaten whole. Some like them green, others like brown, and we can provide all types.

FT: Although millions of people regularly eat insects, including lobster lovers, there is a ‘yuck factor’ from consumers. How does your company hope to overcome this obstacle?

DT: Indeed that’s the greatest challenge of marketing insects. However, as grasshoppers are the most widely eaten insect in the world, they enjoy high demand globally. Even in the U.S. market, the demand for grasshoppers is high, especially coming from south of the border where Chapulines, the Mexican grasshopper, is considered a delicacy. Furthermore, the grasshopper’s bigger size makes them an interesting product for chefs to use. We believe the use of insects as an ingredient is also the way to go when alternatives are sacred to consumers. Finally, we believe that athletes will be the early adopters as grasshopper protein provides them with a better product to improve their performance.

FT: The methods your company use are considered humane. Can you give a brief overview of your farming and harvest methods?

foodtank.com

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1874: The Year of the Locust

‘They beat against the houses, swarm in at the windows, cover the passing trains. They work as if sent to destroy’

Late one July morning in 1874, 12-year-old farm girl Lillie Marcks watched the sunlight dim and a peculiar darkness sweep over the Kansas sky. A whirring, rasping sound followed, and there appeared, as she later recalled, “a moving gray-green screen between the sun and earth.” Then something dropped from the cloud like hail, hitting her family’s house, trees and picket fence. A child in Jefferson County, Kansas, who had gone out at midday to draw water from the well exclaimed: “They’re here! The sky is full of ’em. The whole yard is crawling with the nasty things.” A settler in Edwards County, Kansas, reported: “I never saw such a sight before. This morning, as we looked up toward the sun, we could see millions in the air. They looked like snowflakes.” What this Kansas trio saw that summer was also observed by others statewide and across Dakota Territory, Montana Territory, Wyoming Territory, Colorado Territory, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) and Texas. What Marcks described as “a moving, struggling mass” of grasshoppers—technically, Rocky Mountain locusts (Melanoplus spretus)—had invaded the Great Plains.

Farmers, their pants legs cinched with string, ran to cover their valuable wells. In many cases their drinking water was about the only thing they could save. As the swarms landed on houses, fields and trees, the skies cleared, but then the real devastation began. The locusts soon scoured the fields of crops, the trees of leaves, every blade of grass, the wool off sheep, the harnesses off horses, the paint off wagons and the handles off pitchforks. They washed in waves against the fences, piling a foot or more deep. They feasted for days, even devouring the clothing and quilts farmhands threw protectively over the vegetable gardens. Livestock feasted on the locusts, and farm families killed many of the invaders by building bonfires. But there were just too many of the “nasty things” for man or beast to control. The locusts, farmers grimly quipped, “ate everything but the mortgage.”

Taxonomically speaking, locusts and grasshoppers are the same. When these insects are nonmigratory and nondestructive, with a low-density population, they are considered grasshoppers. When they are both migratory and destructive, with a high-density, concentrated population, they are considered locusts. The particular locusts that caused $200 million in crop damage across the Great Plains in 1874—temporarily stalling Western migration and forcing many homesteaders either to return east or to move farther west—seemed ubiquitous on the frontier at that time.

Rocky Mountain locusts normally ranged along the high, dry eastern slopes of the Rockies, from the southern tip of British Columbia forestland down through the territories of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and western Dakota. As the summer heated up, they hatched from egg pods laid in the ground the year before. The species was given to rapid population increases. When such increases coincided with die-offs of their natural vegetation, usually due to drought, the locusts used their large wings to migrate to lower, more fertile regions in search of food. In 1874 some 120 billion locusts cut a swath more than 100 miles wide that by fall had advanced to Texas.

The Homestead Act of 1862, the end of the Civil War in 1865 and completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869 contributed to a great Western migration of Americans. These homesteaders sought a fresh start on free land but sometimes got more than they bargained for in bad soil or drought and had trouble scraping a living from the prairie. Although few of them could have been prepared for what happened in 1874, locust (or grasshopper) infestations were hardly a novelty in North America. The history of Jesuit missions in California speaks of locust plagues there as early as 1722. Locusts had also repeatedly hit Eastern farms, ravaging, for example, Maine in 1743 and 1756 and Vermont in 1797–98. Period accounts from the West record significant infestations in 1828, 1838, 1846 and 1855, but the dates and severity varied by area. Minnesota, for example, also experienced infestations in 1856, 1857 and 1865. Nebraska was infested in 1856 and then six more times over the next 17 years. Most localized attacks proved irritating but not disastrous. The widespread winged invasion of 1874, though, hit harder than a ton of flying bricks.

Farmers on the Great Plains had already weathered the economic Panic of 1873, the unusually hard winter of 1873–74 and the dry, almost droughtlike early summer that followed. But most had not given up hope. They scanned the skies daily, looking for signs of the rain that would revive what crops had not already succumbed to the drought. What eventually swept in was something very different. The hot and dry conditions of the spring and summer of 1874 had provided ideal breeding conditions for the Rocky Mountain locusts. “The grasses seemed to wither, and the cattle bunched up near the creek and the well, and no air seemed to stir the leaves on the trees,” Kansas pioneer Susan Proffitt wrote. “All nature seemed still.” And then they came.

“They looked like a great, white glistening cloud, for their wings caught the sunshine on them and made them look like a cloud of white vapor,” one unsettled pioneer wrote. “It seemed as if we were in a big snowstorm,” recalled another, “where the air was filled with enormous-size flakes.”

In places the mass of insects blocked out the sun for as long as six hours. When the locusts did descend, they covered every shrub, plant and tree, sometimes breaking limbs with their combined weight. They flattened and devoured corn stalks and reaped fields of grain. They consumed only the most succulent bits of the wheat crop, letting the rest rot on the ground. “Wheat and grasshoppers could not grow on the same land,” one forlorn homesteader put it, “and the grasshoppers already had the first claim.” The locusts picked clean whole watermelon patches and stripped fruit trees, leaving peach pits dangling from empty branches.

Having ravaged the fields and trees, the locusts then invaded the farmers’ houses, clearing out barrels and cupboards and devouring anything not secreted away in wood or metal containers. They even shredded curtains and clothing. At night farm families had to shake bedding to dislodge grasshoppers before retiring and considered themselves lucky if another shaking was not needed before morning. “The air is literally alive with them,” a New York Times correspondent wrote from Kansas. “They beat against the houses, swarm in at the windows, cover the passing trains. They work as if sent to destroy.”

Terrified children fled before the swarms, and one Kansas pioneer wrote of a “young wife, awaiting her first baby, in the absence of her husband…[who] had gone insane from fright.” Kansan Adelheit Viets claimed to have had the clothes literally eaten off her back. “I was wearing a dress of white with a green stripe,” she recalled. “The grasshoppers settled on me and ate up every bit of the green stripe in that dress before anything could be done about it.”

A map produced by the state of Missouri shows that the 1874 infestation spread from the eastern slope of the Rockies into western Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri and from the Canadian Prairie provinces to central Texas, just north of Austin. Generally it moved from north to south. Hit particularly hard were Kansas, Nebraska, Dakota Territory, western Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Indian Territory, eastern Colorado Territory and the southeastern corner of Wyoming Territory. The results were often magnified in remote areas, as settlers there had modest food reserves and few neighbors to help. Texas, Montana Territory and the Prairie provinces of Canada were affected but escaped the worst of the infestation. The largest locust swarm in 1874, according to an 1880 U.S. Entomological Commission report, “covered a swath equal to the combined areas of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont.”

Amateur estimates from the period yielded similar results. In June 1875 Albert Child, a county judge and sometime meteorologist in Plattsmouth, Neb., observed one huge swarm as it passed overhead. By telegraphing for reports from surrounding towns and timing the rate of movement as the insects streamed by for five days, he estimated the swarm was some 1,800 miles long and 110 miles wide. Based on this data he calculated that it covered an astonishing 198,000 square miles. The locusts of 1874, by comparison, infested an estimated 2 million square miles.

As fall neared and colder weather set in, the locusts often collected on railroad tracks, which absorbed the heat of the sun by day and retained it well into the night. The early morning chill found the slumbering insects stiff and unable to move from the path of passing trains. The resulting slippery, gooey mess made it difficult for the trains to safely negotiate grades.

Settlers tried to repel or destroy the locusts by lighting fires and exploding gunpowder charges in their fields, blasting the swarms with shotguns and sometimes simply wailing away at them with wood planks and farm implements. Lillie Marcks’ father and a hired man tried to halt the invaders’ advance by digging a trench along their fence line, filling it with sticks and leaves and starting a fire, only to watch helplessly as the sheer mass of insects smothered the flames. “Think of it,” Lillie wrote, “grasshoppers putting out a fire.”

Others farmers scoured their fields with a “hopperdozer.” This makeshift device comprised a sheet-iron scraper smeared with coal tar and pulled on runners by horses over the infested fields to harvest the bumper crop of locusts. The dozer worked to a degree, but only on flat ground, and even then it was inadequate to deal with the scope of the 1874 infestation. J.A. King, of Boulder, Colorado Territory, invented a horse-pulled suction machine that functioned like a latter-day vacuum cleaner, sucking locusts into a hopper and then a bag for easy disposal. But it, too, worked well only on flat ground, and crushed locusts often clogged its mechanism.

Ultimately, all defenses proved inadequate, as the locusts far outnumbered the humans. The invaders not only destroyed the natural and cultivated vegetation but also left behind the odor of their excrement, which turned ponds and streams brown and left the water wholly unfit for consumption by man or animal. Birds and animals resorted to eating the dead locusts, but the feast left barnyard animals bloated, their meat inedible.

One report released in 1874 suggested that just one family in 10 had enough provisions to last through the coming winter. To avoid starvation, many desperate settlers, especially in western Kansas and Nebraska, abandoned their homestead claims and their dreams of a new life to return east. Kansas alone lost as much as one-third of its population. Meanwhile, the flow of westbound emigrants to the Plains fell by as much as 20 percent.

Debts prevented some from leaving. Others were loath to cede their investments of time and energy. Still others had forged ties to the land they struggled to tame. “I have lost my all here,” one man wrote, “and somehow I believe that if I find it again, it will be in the immediate neighborhood of where I lost it.” Furthermore, he continued, “I have a child buried on my claim, and my ties here are stronger and more binding on that account.” Those who stuck it out often turned to federal and territorial governments for help, borrowed money from family and friends or even mortgaged their land.

Not everyone made it. A correspondent for the St. Louis Republican published the following report in June of what became known as the “Year of the Locust”:

We have seen within the past week families which had not a meal of victuals in their house; families that had nothing to eat save what their neighbors gave them, and what game could be caught in a trap, since last fall. In one case a family of six died within six days of each other from the want of food to keep body and soul together.…From present indications the future four months will make many graves, marked with a simple piece of wood with the inscription STARVED TO DEATH painted on it.

Reverting to an earlier time, some pioneers tried to feed their families by hunting. Other desperate souls survived by gathering discarded buffalo bones from the prairie, hauling them to railroad hubs and selling them for up to $4 per ton; buffalo horns fetched up to $8 per ton. According to period reports, in 1874 the amount of buffalo bone transported by the railroads was three times what it had been the year before and six times that of 1872.

Enter Charles Valentine Riley. The Missouri state entomologist noted that livestock and wild animals happily ate the locusts and that man had used the insect as food since ancient times. Riley thus proposed “entomophagy”—simply put, eating the bugs—as a way to reduce their numbers while nourishing hungry settlers. The insects, he insisted, yielded an agreeable nutty flavor when one removed their legs and wings and fried their bodies in butter. He added that the rendered locusts also made a palatable soup. To prove his point, Riley sent a bushel of scalded locusts to one St. Louisan caterer, who insisted he would have them on his menu every day if he could get them.

Hard-pressed pioneers gave Riley’s recipes a try. Gourmands claimed that locust coated in butter, fried and seasoned with salt and pepper tasted just like crawfish. Others elected to add their crispy locusts to broths and stews. But a number of settlers who had watched the locusts destroy their farms said they would just as soon starve as eat those horrible creatures.

More palatable help was forthcoming. As the scope of the disaster became clear, state and territorial governments held special legislative sessions, issued bonds to relieve the destitution and dispatched agents to the East to secure aid, particularly seed for the 1875 growing season. The nation responded with money and supplies, often hauled free of charge by the railroads. The federal government exempted those homesteaders hit hard by the locust infestation from residency requirements, enabling them to briefly leave their land (and perhaps relocate their families) to work elsewhere and recoup their losses without fear of losing their claim. Settlers were required to provide two witnesses to corroborate the destruction of their crop. The act provided for an extended leave should the locusts return in 1875. Homesteaders had to provide proof of resettlement upon their return. In January 1875 Congress also earmarked $30,000 to supply seed to the beleaguered areas.

The U.S. Army, with the organization and experience to deal with large-scale relief efforts and best situated to reach homesteaders in remote areas, offered the most help. During the bleak winter of 1874–75 its soldiers distributed thousands of heavy coats, boots, shoes, woolen blankets and other items, along with nearly 2 million rations, to suffering families in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado Territory and Dakota Territory.

In the spring of 1875 the trillions of eggs locusts had laid the previous summer began to hatch, covering the ground in many places with a squirming, struggling mass of nymphs. Farmers feared the worst, but a late snowstorm and hard frost killed most of the immature insects, allowing farmers time to replant their crops.

The good news kept coming. Population declines following the 1874 locust infestation proved short lived. In Kansas, for example, the population stood at 364,400 in 1870 but within 10 years had risen to 996,100. Hoping to stop future infestations before they got started, Nebraska in 1877 passed a Grasshopper Act, requiring every able-bodied man between the ages of 16 and 60 to work at least two days eliminating locusts at hatching time or face a $10 fine. That same year Missouri offered a bounty of $1 a bushel for locusts collected in March, 50 cents a bushel in April, a quarter in May and a dime in June. Other Great Plains states made similar bounty offers. In the 1880s farmers had recovered sufficiently from their locust woes to be able to send carloads of corn to flood victims in Ohio. They also switched to such resilient crops as winter wheat, which matured in the early summer, before locusts were able to migrate.

By the turn of the 20th century, the Rocky Mountain locust was fast becoming extinct. The last reported sighting of a living specimen came in southern Canada in 1902. Why this particular species became extinct remains something of a mystery. Scientists have suggested the reduction in Indian populations and the settlers’ transformation of the land might have led to habitat changes that brought on the locusts’ decline. Others have cited the insect’s lack of genetic variety or connected the decline to the reduction of buffalo herds or the beaver population. New habitat-altering plants, an influx of insect-eating birds and farming itself (plowing destroyed untold millions of buried Rocky Mountain locust egg masses) are other factors that contributed to the eradication of the species. But don’t rest easy just yet. Such invasive insects as the Mormon cricket (actually a katydid) still thrive in the region and have threatened Western crops as recently as the summer of 2010.

www.historynet.com

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