Carolina grasshoppers eat a wide variety of plants

Published 9:40 am Saturday, September 8, 2012

Column: Nature’s World

My neighbor Crandall stops by.

“How are you doing?” I ask.

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“Everything is nearly copacetic. A friend in Indiana said it is so dry there, he had to lather his hay in order to mow it. My crop looks good enough that I can stop singing, ‘Bad crops, bad crops. Watcha gonna do. Watcha gonna do when they come for you.’ I found out that my dog loves me more than one of my ex-mothers-in-law. I took the dog to the veterinarian and the ex-mother-in-law to the clinic. That’s when I found out who really loves me. I opened the trunk where they both had been riding and my dog was the only one happy to see me. And to think that I strained my back carrying something for my ex-mother-in-law’s birthday party. I shouldn’t have tried lifting all the candles for her cake at one time. She lived in a gated community, but she broke out. To make matters worse, I was pulled over for having my left turn signal on for five miles before I made the turn. I got a ticket for planning ahead. The good news is that I’ve decided to exercise more. I’m walking a mile down the road and back.”

“How long does that take you?” I ask.

“I don’t know. I haven’t finished yet.”


Herding grasshoppers

I watched two chickadees following a downy woodpecker in my yard. Apparently, at least in my locale, the woodpecker had achieved the status of a celebrity chef. The chickadees chased in the hopes of discovering epicurean delights. I watched for as long as time allowed. I recalled something seen on a gravestone in Cumberland, England, “The wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colors, lights and shades. These I saw. Look ye also while life lasts.”

Later, in a park located in Prior Lake, Currently City, I joined three young grandchildren in the pursuit of Carolina grasshoppers. This large grasshopper, also called Carolina locust or butterfly grasshopper (its wings resemble the mourning cloak) eats a wide variety of plants, but tends to congregate in areas of bare ground. It’s commonly found on school playgrounds, baseball fields, dirt roads, gravel driveways and other similar conditions. Its coloration allows it to blend into such locations. The camouflage is so effective that the grasshopper is usually not noticed until it takes wing. When flushed, the cream-edged black wings become very evident along with a crepitation element (a clacking sound). Thanks to the grasshoppers’ ability to fly and to disappear upon landing, we didn’t capture a single hopper. Competitive Carolina grasshopper chasing could be an Olympic event and failing to grasp a grasshopper builds character.

My life as a scarecrow

The Village Inn here in Hartland threatened to take my photo off the wall of the cafe. I didn’t do anything to offend them. They just wanted to paint the walls of the restroom. I was feeling a little down about that prospect when I received word that a scarecrow modeled and named after me is manning the Horticultural Building at the Minnesota State Fair. I once built a few scarecrows for my gardens. They proved useful only in providing perches for crows and grackles.


Squash that squash borer

Many of us enjoy bringing in garden produce still carrying the warmth of the sun. Darwyn Olson of Hartland lamented the presence of squash borers in his garden. The adult borer is a moth that resembles a wasp. It’s about 1/2-inch long with an orange abdomen with black spots. You could use yellow trap pans to detect squash vine borer adults. This can be any container (pan, pail or bowl) that is yellow in color and filled with water. Squash vine borer adults are attracted to yellow, will fly to the container and fall into the water. Place traps by late June, checking your traps at least once a day. When you notice squash vine borer adults in your traps, you know they are active and it is time to take further action. Plant vine crops that aren’t usually attacked by squash vine borers — butternut squash, cucumbers, melons and watermelons. A second planting of summer squash made in early July matures after adult borers have finished laying eggs. Remove larvae or adults with a pair of tweezers. The larvae are typically found at the base of the plants and often eat their way into the stems. Promptly pull and destroy any plants killed by squash vine borers.


Q and A

Harlan Lutteke of Alden asks, “How long do adult monarchs live?” That depends on when they live (summer or winter). It varies among individuals. In summer, adults live from 2 to 6 weeks. The butterflies that migrate live longer — from August or September to as long as April. It takes a monarch about a month to go from the egg to adult stage, so we could add a month to its lifespan. Harlan also asks when swallows leave. In general, they are out of here before October is gone.


Nature lessons

It’s the female mallard that quacks.

Dew point is the temperature at which water vapor will condense out of the air and form dew or frost.

The dictionary defines “gull” as to deceive, trick or cheat. A person who is easily deceived or cheated. A dupe.

In 1900, there were no wild turkeys or white-tailed deer in Iowa.


Thanks for stopping by

“The best way to measure how much you’ve grown isn’t by inches or the number of laps you can now run around the track, or even your grade-point average — though those things are important, to be sure. It’s what you’ve done with your time, how you’ve chosen to spend your days and whom you’ve touched this year. That, to me, is the greatest measure of success.” — R.J. Palacio

“Rules of living: Don’t worry, eat three square meals a day, say your prayers, be courteous to your creditors, keep your digestion good, steer clear of biliousness, exercise, go slow and go easy. Maybe there are other things that your special case requires to make you happy, but, my friend, these, I reckon, will give you a good life.” — Abraham Lincoln




Al Batt of Hartland is a member of the Albert Lea Audubon Society. Email him at