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Thursday, July 31, 2008


posted by on July 31 at 15:40 PM

I have shared with you before that I am a member of the International Bulb Society, the group that is endowed with the unfortunate acronym IBS and that provides me with up to 30 emails every day. These emails usually involve heated debates (that I could not possibly enter, for my relationship with bulbs remains at the acquaintance level) about subjects such as which sort of hippieastrum is the best. Sitting on the sidelines of these conversations is a happy part of my daily life.

Today, I received an email with the title “LUBBER GRASSHOPPER CONTROLL ???????????????” and it immediately brought equanimity to my weather-troubled soul.

I am not pleased about our current weather in Seattle. Seattle often does not receive memos about which month we are actually in, rather creating days according to unknowable, clearly non-calendrical whims.

However, this is nothing compared to the problem of the lubber, and other types of, grasshopper, about which several IBS members are currently worked up.

Have you ever lived through a grasshopper infestation? Are you living through one now?


It means that when you walk, anywhere, you crunch.

This photograph is not in any way overstating the situation. In fact, I’m surprised the storefront in the background isn’t covered.

Seattle, I love your chilly, gray, bugless July. I’m sorry I complained.


RSS icon Comments


Free protein from the sky!

Posted by chaosbound | July 31, 2008 3:42 PM


Posted by Little Red Ryan Hood | July 31, 2008 3:46 PM

Less spiders and lots of aphids this year in Seattle. Anyone else notice that?

Posted by Mahtli69 | July 31, 2008 3:47 PM

I remember when I was a little kid in DC, and there was this locust infestation or something one year. They would leave shells, hollow things that looked like locusts and were surprisingly large, around everywhere outside. Like, on my swingset and things. I don't recall ever being so freaked out by anything else in my childhood.

Posted by Abby | July 31, 2008 3:48 PM

In SoCal, I remember without fondness huuuuge clouds of june bugs buzzing around the lights in our backyard (two, one blue and one red, that pointed at the heart-shaped in-ground jacuzzi the previous owner had put in).

Posted by leek | July 31, 2008 3:51 PM

Just remember, kittens find grasshoppers a crunchy extra treat.

Much more so than locusts.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 31, 2008 4:06 PM

Yikes. That picture reminds me of driving all night from Vegas to Reno one summer during an infestation of gigantic moths. They were all the road, and the headlights would cause them to fly up to their deaths on the windshield. The car was completely covered in bug guts and carcasses, much like the photo. We had to stop at every gas station to squeegee them off. It was completely and absolutely the grossest thing I've ever experienced.

Posted by rb | July 31, 2008 4:06 PM

It'll happen every hundred years or so in some places. But not just car-covered-in-bugs bad, but sky-black-as-night bad. A future inlaw of mine worked in Morocco a few years back spraying from planes to stave off locusts. They get it more regular than most, and it's devastating.

Ask a Mormon about the grasshoppers. I believe they added an actual event to their official lore.

I don't think anything that sever has happened in western Washington though.

Posted by Dougsf | July 31, 2008 4:08 PM

I was submerged in a swarm of grasshoppers at a gas station when I lived in Vegas a while back. Of course all my windows were open at the time. It was disgusting and freaky and one of the many many reasons I moved back here. NOt to mention the "desert beetles" as the locals liked to call them to make themselves feel better. Actually peeps, those are COCKROACHES, you aren't fooling anybody.

Posted by D | July 31, 2008 4:08 PM

Abby @4 -

Hollow bug-shells, about an inch or two long? Those were cicadas. They're pretty common on the east coast in midsummer-early fall. They make a shit ton of noise, too.

Posted by MK | July 31, 2008 4:38 PM

I agree, sounded more like cicadas.

Posted by Will in Seattle | July 31, 2008 4:42 PM

See @15. Even admins double-post sometimes.

Posted by Anthony Hecht | July 31, 2008 4:55 PM

And unfortunately the 17-year cicadas don't sound anywhere near as pleasant as the annual semi in Japan.

Posted by Greg | July 31, 2008 4:59 PM

I was 4 at a rest stop in Oklahoma. I'd danced happily into a grassy field barefoot when suddenly a swarm descended, I was surrounded. I stood and screamed and screamed and screamed until someone waded out and rescued me. The noise of all those creatures still haunts me. And don't even get me started on the fucking moth infestations in Denver...

Posted by PopTart | July 31, 2008 4:59 PM

What @4 is likely talking about is the Magicicada, or "17-year locust" (not a locust). These feature a "unique combination of long life cycles, periodicity, and mass emergences" and when that 17-year mark hits, man, THEY ARE EVERYWHERE, LIKE PLAGUE. In Baltimore (Hiya Hon!), the rumor when I was a kid was that if you found one with red (maybe blue?) eyes, Johns Hopkins would pay you like $500 for it, because that meant it had skipped a cycle and had been underground for 34 years. Probably not true, but it kept us examining the carnage on the bottoms of our skateboards for blue eyes all summer long.

Posted by Anthony Hecht | July 31, 2008 5:00 PM

My first biology professor was a specialist in periodical (13- and 17-year) cicadas. I thought she was a genius -- perhaps the ideal field for an entomologist who is queasy around bugs.

Posted by Stern Bear | July 31, 2008 5:00 PM

When I lived in Dallas as a teen, cicadas were called "locusts". They may have been on a 17-year-cycle, but there were out in full force every year. Occasionally you'd get hit in the head by one flying by, which felt like a rock.

But that's nothing to do with the other kind of locust, or hopper. I've read a lot of stuff about hopper infestations in the Great Plains -- they'd literally eat your fields bare in an hour and then move on. Absolutely terrifying. People resorted to all kinds of bizarre control techniques including baths of lead and arsenic, troughs of gasoline or tar towed behind revolving thresher blades. If you lived on the Plains, you spent half of your waking hours dreading the motherfuckers.

Posted by Fnarf | July 31, 2008 5:08 PM

Mayflies are worse. Their season is short, like 6 days, but while they are around the Mississippi, you have to plow them off the roads with a snowplow, I shit you not.

Posted by ZWBush | July 31, 2008 5:27 PM

I was maybe 7 at the most, so the naming of the exact insect may not be accurate. Especially since I had no idea what they were called in the first place. Just that they had shells around everywhere and it scared the crap out of me.

Posted by Abby | July 31, 2008 5:39 PM

yeah, they're pretty freakish when you see their shells attached to things everywhere...ugh.

Posted by MK | July 31, 2008 6:00 PM

Shells definitely mean cicadas.

Mayflies may be gross but I don't think they eat 25% or more of the forage in the Western US, or do trillions of dollars of crop damage worldwide, like grasshoppers do.

Posted by Fnarf | July 31, 2008 6:08 PM

#3 YES I have noticed, I generally have to hack my through spider webs at my place, this year not so much. And everything is happening late in the season too. WHY does the arctic get all the global warming? I feel cheated.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | July 31, 2008 7:01 PM

Look on the bright side - locusts are kosher.

Posted by Mr. X | August 1, 2008 12:17 AM

Here in Indiana we have the 17 year cicadas, yearly cicadas, and several species of 13 year cicadas. Right now it is relatively quiet since none of the big populations is around. But 3 years ago... the BIGGEST population of 17 year cicadas was out, about, and making the "noise".
You could not hear yourself think, it was so bad.
When I lived in Illinois, we had a grasshopper invasion (not cicadas since I knew the difference between them even at age 6). There was a lot less noise, but DAMN they'd hop right up your skirt!!!!

Posted by Gindy | August 1, 2008 6:23 AM

We may not get the grasshoppers like this, but one year in the mid-late 70s Seattle had a tent caterpillar population explosion like you wouldn't believe. I've never seen one as bad since then. They were freaking everywhere -- you could not sit down in our yard without wiping caterpillars off the lawn chair. People were cutting down the nests and burning them, and trees were just full of those damned caterpillar web tent things.

And then the next year, it was back to normal, just the occasional caterpillar. Very weird.

Posted by litlnemo | August 1, 2008 9:25 AM

Lake Tahoe - summer or fall 1979 - came home late each night (early each morning?) from working in a casino to step through a carpet of hoppers on my way to bed - hoping the covers weren't too gross. Just no way to get rid of them (I don't think we called for an exterminator.) Didn't last too long, but very gross.

Posted by ts | August 1, 2008 12:02 PM

Appalachicola, FL, 1986, midnight, stopped at lonely motel, desperate for lodging. Must've been 90 degrees, 100 percent humidity -- at midnight. Got our room, and walked/ran across the parking lot on a CARPET of cockroaches -- "CRUNCH, CRUNCH, etc" -- to our room. Awesome memory. No asphalt -- just a sheet of roaches for a parking lot. I crunch-crunch-crunched it out to the soda machine -- I musta been REALLY thirsty, huh? As I put my coins in, i suddenly noticed a 6 inch long green antennae-y creature sitting on the coin slot thingy -- freaked me OUT, and i grabbed my soda and crunch-crunch-crunched it back to the room. Whew! Appalachicola, baby!

Posted by dan | August 1, 2008 4:14 PM

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