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Grasshoppers
Nature Bulletin No. 23  July 14, 1945
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
Clayton F. Smith, President
Roberts Mann, Supt. of Conservation

GRASSHOPPERS
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.

But 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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