Back to Nature (Published on TBNWeekly.com - Nov. 11, 2005)
A garden visitor so colorful and bright
We had a visitor to the garden. She was holding on fast to a bright red stalk of
flowers. My first thoughts were National Geographic style images of mass
infestation and of a once lush landscape that quickly turns into a devastating,
lifeless, leafless brown. Biblical visions of Sunday school lessons tweaked my
interest over this uninvited guest.
|Photo by Karen Mitchell Tremmel
|The obscure birdwing
grasshopper catches a sunbeam and warms the dew upon her
I took a closer look while wondering, are you going to eat my garden? Are you
going to destroy the reds, yellows and blues and turn them lifeless brown?
She seemed innocent enough. There was no evidence of destruction nearby. She was
just catching a sunbeam, warming the dew upon her back.
Now if I was an old farmer like my father and uncles she would have quickly met
with her demise, but to a nature writer she caught my eye. I decided as long as she
was living in peace with me, I would live in peace with her. The identity of my
unusual guest was later discovered or (for lack of a positive ID) my best guess is:
Schistocerca obscura (Fabricius) or more familiarly known as the obscure birdwing
Grasshoppers are found throughout North America. Although we commonly associate
all species of grasshoppers with massive damage, this is a misconception. Out of
more than 600 species of grasshoppers occurring in the United States, the
differential, twostriped, and redlegged grasshoppers are among the most troublesome
species that forage.
This problem is almost indigenous to the Midwest. This group of grasshoppers
destroys at least $80 million worth of forage crops per year in this country.
According to North Carolina Extension Office statistics: An infestation of seven or
eight adult grasshoppers per square meter consumes as much forage on a four hectare
lot as one cow!
But NCE noted that most grasshopper populations in other areas do not warrant
control unless there are populations of five medium to large grasshoppers or eight
small grasshoppers found on pasture crops.
Many grasshopper species overwinter their eggs in the soil. The eggs hatch in
April, May or June. These nymphs feed and grow from 35 to 50 days molting five to
six times during this period. Mature grasshoppers mate and then feed on crop
The grasshopper is quite a lovely insect presenting in many bright colors and
patterns. Some have patterned wings, some have stripes. Their bright colors warn
predators that they taste terrible. If we didnt associate this insect with
mass devastation and human hunger, we might reconsider it to be among those beauty
pageant insects such as, butterflies and dragonflies.
Considering out of 600 species of grasshoppers there are only a couple of species
that are devastatingly destructive, perhaps we should put the lowly grasshopper on
our watch list.
There is a wonderful book, Grasshoppers of Florida (Invertebrates of
Florida), by John L. Capinera, Clay W. Scherer, Jason M. Squitier. This book
will certainly intrigue you, as well, possibly spawn a brand new hobby.
First we had bird watching, then came butterfly watching and dragonfly watching.
How about grasshopper watching? My new visitor is welcome. Life is always full of
new discoveries when back to nature.
Karen can be reached at MyMuddyPawsStudio@gmail.com.