Grasshoppers in Sin City

Sin City has a new attraction. It’s not the Radio City Rockettes, but they have lots of legs. It’s not a new Cirque du Soleil group, but they can jump and fly through the air with the greatest of ease. This is one animal show that even Siegfried and Roy can’t tame. In fact, most folks (unless you’re an entomologist) would prefer to miss this show when visiting Sin City. Chances are, you are going to get a front row seat whether you want it or not.

The grasshoppers are Las Vegas’ latest and greatest performers. This is NOT the name of a new hip hop, jazz, or rock band either. But there are thousands already performing and more showing up to audition every day. The “invasion” is not the name of a new dance. It’s not the grand opening of a new luxury hotel, but rather the new theme for the whole city. Grasshopper season!

Grasshopper swarm in Las Vegas 2019

This, in fact, reminds me of the crickets that invaded Highland Park Mall in Austin, TX long ago when I worked in the men’s shirts and ties department at Foleys. We had at least a 4 inch layer of crickets that made their way into the first set of entry doors. They had literally piled up on top of one another. Some had gone past the 2nd set of doors and were now in the plastic packaged shirts and the lucite display cubicles. When you tried to pick them out, they squirted out this horribly staining and smelly vomit or fecal matter that made the entire problem so much worse. When mall maintenance workers came around to suck all those crickets in the entry doors up with a vacuum, creating a horrible odor of vacuumed crickets, that did it for me. I didn’t show up for my shift ever again. No notice either. I just couldn’t handle it. (Kinda funny in hindsight that I eventually became a master’s-degreed entomologist). Check out this link to see I’m not exaggerating here one bit!

Now I live on San Juan Island. A small, somewhat delightful (unless it’s summertime and the height of a gazillion tourists descending up on us) rural community, accessible by small airplanes or ferry. Last year we had some residents getting pretty worked up by our invasion of praying mantises. I fielded some questions about how they might eat up our hummingbirds. Comments about them ranged from “they’re horribly invasive” to “they’re going to eat all our pollinators.” I smiled and tried to explain as politely as I could how there are only 3 officially documented cases of hummingbirds being captured and eaten by mantises in the United States since the 1800’s, and those were Chinese Mantids, not the smaller European Mantid that is making it’s way west.

As far as pollinators getting eaten by mantids, well, that happens. Everything in nature gets eaten by something. Native species of robber flies and dragonflies eat our cute little bees. So do native spiders and birds. Yes, mantids eat lots of things. Like grasshoppers. That’s why they were introduced to North America in the first place. Which brings me to how I’d like to hand out vintage agricultural reports from the 1930’s and 40’s to some of these panicked individuals and ask them if they’d like to have a few praying mantids on the island or a 6 inch deep layer of grasshoppers! It can happen!

As for those reveling grasshoppers in Sin City…let’s hope what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas!

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