Jiminy Cricket indeed … or not

After struggling to describe a flower that gets no description even on the Internet, writing about a cricket is a snap. Only my photos (which, this time, are truly excellent) are of grasshoppers, a close relative but no go. (I’ll put the cricket information away for the future, now that I know what they look like. Grasshoppers are really much nicer looking.)

There was a time when spiders entertained me nightly with all their activity on my bathroom window. Strangely, they never returned. There was a grasshopper for a while, however, and it posed quite patiently while I got photos of its underside. The topside wasn’t any more difficult for these tend to be friendly little insects. Well, if not really friendly, at least pretty nonchalant about my near presence. Learning about spiders has made me very accommodating with most insects now. With definite exceptions, I’m happy to observe and then leave them alone.

Like my grasshoppers, many of the ones around here are green. Their coloring often depends on their environment with green working for those near fields and forest. The camouflage allows them to blend in for their own safety. Of course, on a window or garage floor it isn’t much help – a nice reward for the photographer in me.

Some grasshoppers are omnivorous while most are polyphagous (with the accent on the lyph) which means simply they’ll eat many different kinds of grasses, leaves and cereal crops. I figured we could skip the details of their digestive system.

But, reading about appetites, leads to who eats the grasshoppers. In this case, I am referring to humans. Seems they are an excellent source of protein, minerals and vitamins. The Mexicans may collect them at dusk, soak them in water for 24 hours and then eat them raw, sun-dried or fried. Spices help. Chinese serve them on skewers. Africans tend to prefer them in their soup. (I think of the old joke about the fly. Only these would belong there!) In the Middle East, they are boiled in salted water and then left to dry to become a tasty snack. (I almost typed “nasty” which might well be my feeling about the subject.) And of course other insects, birds, lizards, spiders and even rodents find the grasshopper tasty as well.

One of the sites I checked included detailed clues on how to collect them for the classroom. Nary a word, however, about what happens to them once they’re in school.

The insect did major damage across the Midwest during the 1870s and the 1930s and can still severely damage crops though the risk has been lessened by the use of insecticides. A device called the hopperdozer appeared during the latter half of the 19th century. Love the name! Catching and killing the insects, the hopperdozer was used by some farmers well into the twentieth century.

Many of us have enjoyed a grasshopper pie which, trust me, has nothing to do with the insect beyond being green. It’s a mouth-watering combination of milk, marshmallows, creme de menthe and creme de cacao and (for me) Cool Whip. (Shoe-fly pie is also a family favorite though, I confess, not asked for as often.)

I find there is a grasshopper telephone service, a lawn mower (poor things) and a brand of women’s shoes.

Aesop has a popular fable about the ant and grasshopper, the former refusing aid and allowing the grasshopper to starve. Canadian Bernard Suits rewrote the story in favor of the grasshopper: “the exemplification of the life most worth living.” His little insect concentrates on playing games while his definition of game as “the voluntary overcoming of unnecessary obstacles” gave Suits his claim to fame.

They have been featured in movies (“The Beginning of the End” as mutants who attack Chicago and “A Bug’s Life” where they again play the villains) and TV shows (“Kung Fu” where a grasshopper was one who had much to learn).

Those unable to concentrate on a single subject are said to have “a grasshopper mind” as they continue to be overwhelmed by inappropriate associations.

Ah, yes! The writer’s life!

Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. “Her Reason for Being” was published in 2008 with “Love in Three Acts” released in June. Copies are available at Papaya Arts on the Boardwalk in Dunkirk and the Cassadaga ShurFine. Information on all the Musings, the books and the author can be found at Susancrossett.com.