Nature Bulletin No. 23 July 14, 1945
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation
The grasshopper is the clown of the insect world. He does not "chew
tobacco", as most boys think, but ejects a dark-brown digestive juice
from his crop when captured and held. He is quite an athlete. If a man
could leap as big and far, in proportion to his size, a man could jump
over an eight-story building. Once in the air, the grasshopper can scar
like an airplane with his stiff upper pair of wings, or fly considerable
distances by rapidly vibrating his delicate lower pair.
He has five eyes. The two big ones are each compounded of thousands
of little eyes for seeing distant objects from any angle. The three small
eyes, one of them in the middle of his forehead, are for seeing tiny
details at close range. His "ears" are on the sides of his stomach just
behind the thorax or chest. He has two short "horns" or antennae.
His cousin, the katydid, with long horns and soft green body, has its
ears on the front legs just below the first joint. Grasshoppers, katydids,
crickets, cockroaches and termites are all cousins. The locust spoken of
in the Bible as one of the seven plagues of Egypt was a grasshopper.
Billions of billions of grasshoppers descending in clouds upon the grain
fields of Nebraska and Kansas have periodically devastated huge areas.
if the grasshopper is sometimes a pest, it is always an important
item of food for wild creatures. Foxes, skunks, ground squirrels, moles,
shrews and mice are all mammals which eat grasshoppers. Pheasants,
quail, crows, herons and many song birds feed on them. Your
Thanksgiving turkey probably ate many thousands fish, such as bass
and bluegills, eat them. So do frogs, toads, lizards and snakes.
So do humans. Grasshoppers are ground up into "locust meal" by many
of the desert tribes in Africa and Asia. The Japanese claim them to be
more nourishing than fish and cook them in soy bean oil. Our American
Indians dried them in the sun for winter use, mixed them with acorn
meal and made patties which were roasted on hot stones.
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Update: June 2012