Tag Archives: mantids

Jumping Jehoshaphat, the grasshoppers have arrived!

In the news…

I’m wondering if anyone is following the grasshopper outbreak in Oregon? If you don’t know about this, I’ll fill you in and include some links. Perhaps we need to round up our “mean-ole, hummingbird murdering mantids” (EXTREME SARCASM HERE!) and send them south to help out. Just kidding. If you read through the attached list of sources, you’ll see in one where they’ve now determined the mantids don’t have much of an impact on controlling grasshoppers (Fries, 2021).

If they are so bad (and from historical reports, they can indeed reach proportions on the scale of a Biblical plague), what do we do about them? Why is there such an outbreak?

Grasshopper populations cycle periodically, but it’s thought they are worst when conditions are dry. One theory is that a fungus that controls populations isn’t viable in these conditions and only works when we have damper weather.

Historically, control methods have been pretty toxic – everything from arsenic bait to other drastic measures – all environmentally hazardous. If you review old agricultural journals, records of exploding grasshopper populations conjure up images of something you’d see in a horror movie, only it was real. Historical photos exist of a landscape stripped of vegetation; bare fields and trees. Handles were eaten off wooden farm implements and fenceposts were eaten too. Crops were lost, people starved. There’s a reason it’s called a PLAGUE. 🦗🦗🦗

So, this is happening now in Oregon. Aphis is coordinating aerial spraying of wide swaths (millions of acres ) of land with an insecticide called diflubenzuron. Studies have shown diflubenzuron reduces populations of bees, butterflies, beetles, and many other species of insects. Aquatic invertebrates consumed by endangered fish and trout are also vulnerable (Xerces Society, 2022). Xerces Society has a federal lawsuit against Aphis to fight this grasshopper managment strategy. Application of this insecticide directly threatens endangered species like yellow-billed cuckoos, black-footed ferrets, bull trout, Ute ladies’-tresses orchids, Oregon spotted frogs and Spalding’s catchflies which are present in multiple states in which the insecticide spraying program operates (Xerces, 2022).

What can we do if we don’t spray? Well, I would encourage folks to look at the studies about the benefits of eating grasshoppers. They aren’t much different than shrimp. At a minimum, they could be netted, dried, and manufactured into feed for poultry, fish, and swine. We have to stop the madness. Dumping chemicals is only bringing our apocalypse closer. We won’t survive. The grasshoppers probably will. 🦗🦗🦗🦗🦗🦗🦗

References and Further Reading

Brown, M. 2021. Forget cicadas. Drought-stricken West is getting plagued by voracious grasshoppers. LA Times. https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2021-06-24/western-drought-brings-voracious-grasshoppers

Cannings, R.A. 2007. Recent range expansion of the Praying Mantis, Mantis religiosa Linnaeus (Mantodeaz Mantidae), in British Columbia. Journal of the Entomological Society of British Columbia. 104 https://journal.entsocbc.ca/index.php/journal/article/view/101 or https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237474147_Recent_range_expansion_of_the_Praying_Mantis_Mantis_religiosa_Linnaeus_Mantodea_Mantidae_in_British_Columbia

Fries, J. 2021. Praying mantises alive and well in Okanagan. Kelowna Daily Courier. https://www.kelownadailycourier.ca/news/article_86bd5fc4-f18b-11eb-8614-d328402eb90c.html

Handschuh, D. 2021. The Hoppers are Here. Increase in number of grasshoppers noted across the Okanagan. Castanet. https://www.castanet.net/news/Vernon/343375/Increase-in-number-of-grasshoppers-noted-across-the-Okanagan

Larson, T. 2014. The Grasshopper Plague. Ghosts of North Dakota. https://ghostsofnorthdakota.com/2014/03/16/the-grasshopper-plague/

Morgan, Adam. 2014. IN 1937, Colorado Guard used flamethrowers and explosives against plague of locusts. National Guard. https://www.nationalguard.mil/news/article-view/article/575751/in-1937-colorado-guard-used-flamethrowers-and-explosives-against-plague-of-locu/

PARKER, J. R., R. C. NEWTON and R. L. SHOTWELL. 1955. Observations on mass flights and other activities of the migratory grasshopper. USDA Tech. Bull. 1109. 

Parker, J.R., Newton, R.C., and R.L. Shotwell. 1955. Observations on Mass Flights and Other Activities of the Migratory Grasshopper. U.S. Department of Agriculture https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=KrMXAAAAYAAJ

Reinhardt and Ganzel. 2003. Grasshoppers were a plague during the 1930’s depression. Wessels Living History Farm, Nebraska. https://livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/pests_02.html

Rush, C. 2022. ‘Biblical’ insect swarms spur Oregon push to fight pests. Info.News.CA https://infotel.ca/newsitem/us-destructive-grasshoppers/cp1339611467

Thistle, J. 2008-2009. ACCOMMODATING CATTLE: British Columbia’s “Wars” with Grasshoppers and “Wild Horses”1.  BC Studies; Vancouver Iss. 160, (Winter 2008/2009): 67-70,72-91,156 https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/accommodating-cattle-british-columbias-wars-with/docview/196882595/se-2 or British Columbia’s “Wars” with Grasshoppers and “Wild Horses”1https://ojs.library.ubc.ca › article › download

Xerces Society. 2022. Lawsuit Launched Challenging USDA’s Failure to Protect Endangered Species From Insecticide Sprays Over Millions of Acres in U.S. West. https://xerces.org/press/lawsuit-launched-challenging-usdas-failure-to-protect-endangered-species-from-insecticide

We can EAT them! 

Imathiu, Samuel. 2020. Benefits and food safety concerns associated with consumption of edible insects. NFS Journal 18: 1-11. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nfs.2019.11.002 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S235236461930046X

Lopez-Santamarina A, Mondragon ADC, Lamas A, Miranda JM, Franco CM, Cepeda A. Animal-Origin Prebiotics Based on Chitin: An Alternative for the Future? A Critical Review. Foods. 2020 Jun 12;9(6):782. doi: 10.3390/foods9060782. PMID: 32545663; PMCID: PMC7353569. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7353569/

Shah AA, Totakul P, Matra M, Cherdthong A, Hanboonsong Y, Wanapat M. Nutritional composition of various insects and potential uses as alternative protein sources in animal diets. Anim Biosci. 2022 Feb;35(2):317-331. doi: 10.5713/ab.21.0447. Epub 2022 Jan 4. PMID: 34991214; PMCID: PMC8831828. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8831828/

Stull, Valerie. 2019. Bugs for our bugs? Edible insects and the microbiome. Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative. https://www.globalsoilbiodiversity.org/blog-beneath-our-feet/2019/2/27/bugs-for-our-bugs-edible-insects-and-the-microbiome

Swanson, S. 2019. This is a story about eating grasshoppers. Nevada Public Radio. Desert Companion Essay. https://knpr.org/desert-companion/2019-12/story-about-eating-grasshoppers

Yawaza, M. 2021. The History of Chapulines: ICE faculty and staff taste test edible grasshoppers from Mexico. ICE. https://ice.edu/blog/chapulines-mexican-food


Grasshopper Tacos https://www.quericavida.com/recipes/grasshopper-tacos/35a7e337-7fb5-4ef3-b58b-50b7403b72ea

Recipe: Teriyaki Skewers with grasshoppers https://www.insectgourmet.com/teriyaki-skewers-with-grasshoppers/

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! https://www.dallasnews.com/news/from-the-archives/2018/08/14/invaded-crickets-dallasites-battled-swarms-clogged-clocks-plowed-doors

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. https://sanjuanislander.com/news-articles/environment-science-whales/environment/28146/revenge-of-the-mantids

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!

More reading:

https://livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe30s/pests_02.html https://www.historynet.com/1874-the-year-of-the-locust.htm https://www.nationalguard.mil/News/Article-View/Article/575751/in-1937-colorado-guard-used-flamethrowers-and-explosives-against-plague-of-locu/