Hoppers on the Move!

Here in Northern California the grasshoppers are plentiful this year, and they are hungry and looking for a good meal.  According to a news report on KNVN:

The farm advisor from the UC Cooperative Extension says the young grasshoppers are making their way down from the foothills in search of anything green they can eat.  “They’ll strip vegetable crops and vegetable gardens,” Joseph Connell, the UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor said.

Connell says the larger than average population this year is due mostly to the wet spring in 2011.  “Last year was a nice wet year, lots of feed. We had a chance for the population to build up. They lay eggs in the fall, those hatch in the spring so we got a lot more hoppers this year,” Connell said.

I haven’t noticed a lot of grasshoppers on my place, but I have chickens, and that may be keeping the population down.

The California Indians would not have seen a big grasshopper year as a bane, but a boon.

George M. Gray, Bidwell’s ranch manager, reminisced about the Indians and grasshoppers in 1938 for the Sandy Gulch News.

The year 1882 was a grasshopper year. They hatched up in the foothills and came down in to the vineyards by the millions and started in eating the leaves, stripping the vines clean as they traveled west. . . .

One day I saw the squaws and two old Indians hurrying up to the vineyard as fast as they could go. I watched to see what they were going to do. The Indian men cleaned off the dry grass from a spot eight feet square and dug three holes about two feet across and three feet deep, and the squaws went over to the creek and cut a handful of willow brush and went around a four acre piece of land driving the grasshoppers to the center where the holes were, and drawing nearer all the time.

The two men had made a fire of dry brush and were heating four round stones. When the others had the grasshoppers driven into the holes they rushed up and covered up the holes, then put the hoppers into sacks and put the hot stones into the sacks too, and rolled the stones back and forth and in a few minutes they had a quart or more of nice fine well cooked grasshopper meal.  One of the old men with his face smiling all over, said to me, “Dis be a fine good year. Lots of grasshoppers.”

So now, if you are infested with grasshoppers, you know what to do. Don’t poison them—eat them!

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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