Wednesday, August 17, 2011

August 17: Grasshoppers

Last week's New Yorker featured an interesting article on humans eating insects for food (entomophagy). It included a photograph of a lipsticked mouth about to eat a giant, colorful grasshopper. While I enjoyed the article and could even imagine myself at some time eating sauteed termite larvae or chocolate-covered ants, there's no way I could ever eat a grasshopper. They've grossed me out ever since I got a science kit when I was 7 that included a big lubber grasshopper to dissect. My stepmother and I dissected the frog just fine, but I threw away the grasshopper. It scared me.

My disgust may be rooted in having read at an early age the Laura Ingalls Wilder book "On the Banks of Plum Creek," in which the Ingalls family's wheat crop is decimated by a plague of locusts--or rather, a swarm of grasshoppers. She describes in horrific detail the swarming mass of the insects, the constant sound of their chewing, and how they crawled over everything, even through their house.

Hiking with an entomologist friend many years later, however, I couldn't help but be amused by how he'd catch a grasshopper, observe it a closely, even a bit tenderly, while reciting its scientific name, and then let it go again. He'd say, "There's a fine bug!" in true admiration. To an entomologist, at least, there's something to love about a grasshopper.

This afternoon part of my running route took me down a sidewalk that bordered a vacant lot overgrown with weeds. The pavement itself had been heated by the sun all day, and apparently grasshoppers were drawn to its warm surface, because with each step, dozens of them sprayed into the air in all directions. The whole length of the sidewalk, until I got to a house with a mown lawn, was grasshopper city. As long as I didn't have to eat or dissect them, I didn't mind. It was actually kind of cool, probably the most dynamic moment of my rather sluggish outing.

With each running step,
explosion of grasshoppers
from the hot sidewalk.


  1. very cool! (word of caution -- GIANT grasshoppers in Costa Rica)

  2. I wish I didn't know that, Laura! Although spiders also creep me out, and I know there are big spiders there too. I guess when you go to a place like that you just suck it up and enjoy the exotic landscape!