Cryptopod: A Grasshopper That Doesn’t Take Pebbles from Hands


It may not be quite fair or exciting to present to you a grasshopper to identify, but here’s a couple from Chip Ross Park anyway.

Cryptopod I

Cryptopod I

The problem is manyfold, you see: dreary weekend that has left me uninspired, a cat who has decided for the second weekend in a row that the appropriate place for her servant is lying trapped with said cat on lap (which is less dreary, but completely non-conducive to productivity), and the fact that Foyle’s War is interesting. Also, I’m planning to write something about Parícutin on its anniversary, which means taking notes, which is difficult with the winter blahs compounded by cat-on-lap and Foyle-on-teevee, not to mention screaming at one scientific paper, “But the paper you’re saying said that didn’t say that!” About all I’m equal to is grasshoppers.

Cryptopod II

Cryptopod II

Grasshoppers make me feel vaguely guilty. They were ubiquitous where I grew up as a child – Flagstaff sometimes looked like the Biblical Egypt during the plague of locusts, only they were grasshoppers, not locusts. They were easy to catch, and you know what kids do when they catch insects: they experiment. We’d hold them by one leg to find out how powerful their kick was, and squeeze them a bit until they dribbled juice that looked like tobacco at us, and that sort of thing. I tried not to be too cruel, because I didn’t want to be like those children who pulled wings off flies, but there was a fascination about grasshoppers, staring into their buggy faces and wondering just how they work, and curiosity is cruel.

Cryptopod III

Cryptopod III

They did get their own back. The bastards ate my Tropicana rose. I loved that rose. It was a graduation gift, and it was a magnificent color that reminded one of tropical sunsets, and the fuckers ate it right down to the ground. There was only a single leaf left when they were done, and I think they left it there to grind salt into the wound. Well, I suppose I deserved it, ultimately. I’d not precisely been kind to their compatriots.

Cryptopod IV

Cryptopod IV

I never did like them much, and bore them a grudge for that rose, but given enough years away and the proper amount of homesickness, and you can become nostalgic for almost anything. Which is how I ended up very nearly delighted when it turned out the open spaces in the oak savannah at Chip Ross Park was hopping with them. It was just like home: open forest, dead brown grasses, brown grasshoppers leaping every-which-way with every step. And they were some of the only cryptopods about. So there were a few times, up there with all of Corvallis and its lovely geology spread before me, when I was down on my knees trying to persuade a grasshopper to hold still whilst Lockwood looked on in bemusement.

If you know the species, you may enlighten us. If you don’t, you can share your own grasshopper stories. Don’t worry. We won’t hold them against you, even if they involve horrible childhood experiments, or sniggering references to the teevee show Kung Fu.

Comments

  1. says

    I think this fellow belongs to the genus Melanoplus. The guide I’ve linked to lists some other similar genera it could be, too, and I’m definitely no expert!

    I also caught grasshoppers at every opportunity when I was a kid. Usually didn’t dissect/experiment on them, though. In fact I got in trouble at school for trying to beat up the kid who kept pulling their legs off. The grasshoppers haven’t been very grateful, though. There are bite marks on my binoculars where one tried to eat them last year.

  2. Trebuchet says

    From Wikipedia:

    Locusts are the swarming phase of certain species of short-horned grasshoppers in the family Acrididae.

    So apparently locusts are some types of grasshoppers that swarm. That was what I thought but had to look it up.

    Add me to the list of kids that liked to catch grasshoppers. We had tons of them, of many varieties in the Montana summers. It was a real challenge to catch the big fliers with the colorful wings. I used to keep them for a few days in a box with air holes and some vegetation then turn them loose.

    I also spent a portion of the weekend with a cat on my lap. That’s actually something kind of new — she usually hangs out on my wife. The one absolute requirement, regardless of whose lap she’s on, is that there must be a blanket to be under.

  3. Crudely Wrott says

    Ah! I recognize that little bugger! That is a fish dinner grasshopper.

    I used to catch them during summers in Wyoming and use them as bait for rainbows and brookies and cutthroats. Sometimes I’d even catch a fat and pink-fleshed brown.

    A few times, after the hay fields had been mowed, my father would tie a scrap of burlap grain sack to the front bumper of the old pickup truck and he and I would drive out across the fields. The prickly bits on the grasshoppers legs would snag in the course burlap and in no time at all we’d have a bunch or ‘em.

    That technique came in handy when we had company who came equipped with rod and reel, which was most every year.

    The collar behind the head is surprisingly tough chitin. A hook inserted from the head, just under the collar, enabled an angler to cast and retrieve the hopper numerous times and the hopper would remain animated, its legs moving about and such. For a hungry trout it was an irresistible bait which made it useful for the hungry angler. They helped me bring home many a full creel as well as putting smiles on the faces of our visitors.

    They also made an amazingly loud snapping sound when they flew. Never did find out how they did that.