by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO- I don’t know many people who have not been slimed by a grasshopper spitting tobacco juice at least once in their life, usually in childhood. Whereas a kid will faint if you put asparagus on their dinner plate, they can stand a dozen tobacco juice encounters and not even blink an eye. Considering this brown spit wad is their defense mechanism, I think they need to study up and get a new one because, really, how many of you have dropped the grasshopper at the moment of tobacco juicing and run screaming in the other direction? This may work on an unsuspecting slug or the wayward lady beetle, but it really doesn’t affect us humans much. Sure, it’s yucky, but we just wipe it off and continue to examine the grasshopper, at which point it begins to sweat a liquid that looks strangely similar to urine.
What’s worse than tobacco juice in my book is those raspy feet. They can grab hold of the skin on your arm and not let go. That has always given me the willies. It makes you wonder if a trap door on their abdomen is going to flip open, releasing a hydraulic drill that will start infusing tobacco juice into your bloodstream, thus implanting the genes to turn you into a giant grasshopper cousin, spitting tobacco juice at people who have more than 20 items in the express lane at the grocery store.
I’ve got a garden FULL of grasshoppers because I do not use pesticides. However, I do have dogs, which have turned out to be better than pesticides. That’s right, my dogs EAT grasshoppers. They will chase them down, pounce on them and munch them with a lip-smacking grin. Apparently grasshoppers taste good. I discovered on the Internet that they can be boiled, roasted, fried and even covered in chocolate. Who was the guy that first decided to eat one of these foul creatures? According to EHow.com, a pound of grasshoppers is more healthful than a pound of beef (thanks but I’ll keep my steak). However, they are a lot cheaper than dog treats. Unfortunately for us, they do cause some gastric upset in the dogs and result in a reeking flatulence that gets the dogs ejected from the house regularly during grasshopper season.
Something I noticed about a month ago, about twenty percent of my garden grasshoppers are missing one leg. I do not know where the legs got off to. I did read somewhere that the legs can still crawl around even after being separated from the body. Where do they go? Was there an argument among all the body parts and some of the legs mutinied and decided to move to Phoenix? And does this leave the incomplete grasshopper hopping around in circles and not knowing why?
Even these one-legged grasshoppers are hard to catch. That’s because they have five eyes all around their head. They also have their ears in their abdomen. So while you think you are sneaking up behind them, they hear you coming through their rear end and they have eyes in the back of their head. We even have some that can fly. Don’t even bother chasing these. You will end up at the top of the East Peak and not even know how you got there.
In Colorado, we’re kind of lucky we only have about 100 grasshopper species out of 18,000 in the world. And the biggest ones I’ve seen are about three inches long, but they can get to be three times that size in Australia. And even though they prefer to eat the leaves of squash and cabbage plants, they will also eat weeds. Besides dogs, flies can also control the grasshopper population because they eat grasshopper eggs. This has me conflicted, since I don’t much like flies either. I hope the two species never reach a truce and join forces, because then we’re all in big trouble.