Gardens and Grasshoppers or “A plague on those locusts!”

I was reading a post at Town and Country Gardening about drought and grasshoppers (http://survivalfarm.wordpress.com/2012/07/22/home-gardens-drougth-dry-winds-grasshoppers-whats-next/#comment-1513). He lives in Oklahoma and has my sympathy because the Great Plains have traditionally been a challenging place to garden/farm.

Oklahoma Dust Bowl – 1930’s

Some suggested “climate change” but I am a bit of a history geek, and the Dust Bowl of the 30′s is something most of us actually know very little about, but if you talk to some very old people they will tell you it  was pretty bad. Here are some places to start (all links are safe and secure – I went there myself and checked):

Observed precipitation in the great plains region of North America 30ªN to 50ªN, 95ªW to 105ªW (boxed area on maps) compared with precipitation calculated from an atmospheric general circulation model forced by observed sea-surface temperature data. The calculated precipitation has been smoothed to remove fluctuations with periods shorter than six years. The thin black lines are 14 different simulations. The variation shows some of the uncertainty of the calculated precipitation. The green line is the average of the 14 simulations. The maps show the anomaly of precipitation averaged from 1932 to 1938.

That being said, here are some helpful suggestions I gleaned from Garden’s Alive! (“Getting a Grip on Grasshoppers!”) about natural grasshoppers controls: http://www.gardensalive.com/article.asp?ai=775. Yes, it is a commercial site, but they have “environmentally responsible products that work,”  to use their own words. Here are a few suggestions with a few brief quotes from the page:

  1. Nosema locustae, “a microscopic protozoan parasite of grasshoppers. Often just called ‘Nosema’, it is currently available under a variety of brand names, including ‘Nolo Bait’ and ‘Semaspore.’ It’s a living organism with a relatively short shelf life, so it’s best to buy it just before you use it—which would be in the Spring, when you see the first baby hoppers in their “nymph” stage; a half-inch or smaller. (It doesn’t have much of an effect on adults). Your local county extension agent should be able to identify the right time for your specific region.”
  2. Fowl: Domestic – Guinea fowl (very effective!) and chickens. Native – attract them (specific suggestions in article).
  3. Spun polyester row covers. ‘Nuff said.
  4. Tilling: “Tilling your soil early in the Fall and again in Spring will expose many of those eggs to predators and desiccation.”
  5. Heavy mulch: Grasshoppers lay next year’s eggs later in summer and heavy mulch (at least 2 inches of old hay, straw, wood chips, shredded leaves, etc.) applied over the winter will prevent many of next year’s young from being able to emerge from the soil (I leave mine on year-round).
  6. Molasses is a favorite folk cure that may help right now. Back when I was editor of ORGANIC GARDENING, a Canadian reader reported great success from spraying the perimeter of her garden with a dilute mixture of molasses; apparently, it clogged the pores of hoppers hit by the spray and ones who ate the sprayed plants. Several other readers recommended molasses traps: Mix one part blackstrap molasses with ten parts water, fill wide-mouth jars and buckets a third of the way with this mix and place around the infested area; the hoppers hop in but they can’t hop out.”
  7. Neem – “Spraying those plants with neem—a natural pesticide made from the seed of a tropical tree—is virtually certain to protect them. In fact, our good buddy Bill Quarles, director of the BIRC—the Bio-Integral Resource Center in Berkeley, California—tells us that neem’s pesticidal properties were first investigated because neem trees were the only plants spared during locust attacks. Bill says that ‘grasshoppers would rather starve to death than eat a plant that’s been sprayed with neem.’ ”

A fistful of locusts – or lunch?

BTW, a little know fact: According to the Bible (Leviticus 11: 20-23), locusts are the only insect that may be eaten: “Every flying insect that uses four legs for walking shall be avoided by you. The only flying insects with four walking legs you may eat are those with knees extending above their feet, [using these longer legs] to hop on the ground. Among these you may only eat members of the red locust family, the yellow locust family, the spotted gray locust family and the white locust family. All other flying insects with four feet [for walking] must be avoided by you.”

Perhaps it was God’s way of giving the people something to eat (in addition to a little culinary vengeance) any time locusts ate their crops.

Anyone ever tried them and have any comments or recipes?

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Dave Gracer
    Jul 27, 2012 @ 04:07:18

    Greetings,
    I’ve had grasshoppers on numerous occasions; in fact they’re the most popularly-consumed type of insect around the world. Briefly parboiled and then roasted/baked is a good way to go; they tend to have little flavor of their own, and will take on the flavors they’re cooked with: garlic, curry, etc.

    The only issue [apart from allergy issues — anyone allergic to shellfish will almost definitely experience the same reaction with insects, since they’re so closely related] is cultural conditioning: the “ewwww!” response. That, ultimately, is a problem with critical thinking skills.

    Reply

    • Lloyd's of Rochester
      Jul 27, 2012 @ 09:21:18

      Interesting info about the shellfish link – have you actually heard of anyone having such a reaction? As for the cultural conditioning and “ewww!” I figure that a creative and determined entrepreneur could overcome that because, after all, don’t people already eat multi-legged water creatures (shrimp, lobsters, crabs, crawfish)? Related to that, I am afraid I enjoy messing with people sometimes by recharacterizing them as “God’s underwater janitorial staff,” “bottom-dwelling scavengers,” and “water cockroaches,” but it doesn’t seem to bother anyone enough to stop eating them, so why not grasshoppers? 😉

      Reply

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