When You Can Take the Grasshopper From My Hand…

…it will be time for you to leave, young Pebble. Wait. That’s backwards

No matter. Look what I’ve got!


(No grasshoppers were harmed in the making of this blog post. Merely inconvenienced.)

B has a sharp eye for detail, and often catches things I don’t. Okay, granted, I was busy drooling over the rocks in the quarries at Lord Hill Regional Park. You know me – wave a rock in my face, shiny or not, and I’m oblivious to anything else. But I did eventually notice B hopping around, grabbing at the ground. “Wha???”

“Trying to catch a grasshopper,” he said.

Then I saw it fly by me, and the instincts honed by a long childhood of chasing the things kicked in. B and I both spent lazy summer days in pursuit of the little buggers. And, of course, missing. Lots. Which I proceeded to do, until it made a miscalculation and ended up landing in a tiny depression from which it could not easily escape, and I managed to grab it by the wings.

So there we were, two overgrown kids with a grasshopper in hand. And, unlike childhood, a camera. B proceeded to take photos for your benefit. He loves you almost as much as I do (especially when you say clever and cute things about his kittehs).

Grasshopper in profile. "Is this mah good side?"
Grasshopper in profile. “Is this mah good side?”

It was kind enough to hold still during the photoshoot, for the most part, although it was tap-dancing all over my fingers trying to get away from these two freaks. We didn’t hang on to it long. We’re kinder than we were as kids. B was concerned enough to remind me their legs come off easily, so I made sure our specimen didn’t get a leg stuck while being held, and I remembered how soft and squidgy their abdomens were, so I was careful to grip only its wings. When we let it go, it flew off none the worse for wear.

I was fascinated by them when I was a child. I’d catch them, and stare them in their little faces, wondering what thoughts a grasshopper thinks.

Hey, grasshopper. Whatcha thinkin'?
Hey, grasshopper. Whatcha thinkin’?

Our local ones spit tobacco juice, or what looked like it: when they wanted to gross you out into dropping them, they’d extrude a big blob of dark-brown liquid that looked all the world like the by-product of chewing tobacco. And their mouthparts were fascinating. So was the fact some had wings and some didn’t. Sometimes, I could spread out their wings and study them without the grasshopper getting away. I liked the way they folded like accordions, and the yellow-with-a-black-stripe motif, but I never did think they were as pretty or graceful as butterflies. Also, they made a funny noise when they flew, a kind of inelegant snapping buzz. And they ate my Tropicana rose. Buggers. Still, they were fun to chase around.

Handsome insect, innit?
Handsome insect, innit?

And those rough little legs! The back ones have surprising strength. I mean, you know they’re strong enough to propel the insect in some pretty impressive jumps, but even so, you don’t really expect them to feel quite so strong. And they’re very flexible. Good range of motion.

They’re actually quite lovely. Like so many things taken for granted, considered pests, disregarded, they’re quite amazing when you stop to look. Like rocks in that respect.

Now, of course, since I started the post with a quote from Kung Fu, I feel it necessary to end with one, because this is also a good reminder not to take things for granted.

Master Po: [after easily defeating the boy in combat] Ha, ha, never assume because a man has no eyes he cannot see. Close your eyes. What do you hear?

Young Caine: I hear the water, I hear the birds.

Master Po: Do you hear your own heartbeat?

Young Caine: No.

Master Po: Do you hear the grasshopper that is at your feet?

Young Caine: [looking down and seeing the insect] Old man, how is it that you hear these things?

Master Po: Young man, how is it that you do not?

When You Can Take the Grasshopper From My Hand…

10 thoughts on “When You Can Take the Grasshopper From My Hand…

  1. rq

    He loves you almost as much as I do (especially when you say clever and cute things about his kittehs).

    Well, now, that makes him ok in my view. ;)

    As for the grasshopper, all grasshoppers have wings, but some don’t have functional (or large) wings. (But by definition, an insect has 6 legs and 2 pairs of wings, a pair of which may have evolved into something else like the elytra of beetles or the halteres of flies. Anyway. Entomology lesson over.) Here’s a list of grasshopper species, the heat today is making me lazy enough not to identify this cutey-pie.
    I love the palps they have around their mouths: like prehensile moustaches.

    As for what it’s saying? I’m going to go with Lofty, above. ;)

  2. rq

    And yeah, that list of grasshopper species is for the prairies, sorry… This looks more complete but it has no pictures.
    Anyway, The Google sucked me in, so you’re probably looking at a version of migratory grasshopper, maybe this one, but there are at least two other species with the striped legs and voracious appetite.
    Interestingly, it’s possible for species of these insects to go extinct: according to this page, it happened in 1902 in the Rocky Mountains. Unprecedented (to anyone’s knowledge at that time)!

  3. rq

    PPS (Yesh, it’s me again.)
    Grasshoppers are rather loud for the most part, so if you don’t hear it, you really aren’t paying any attention… ;)

  4. 5

    My favorite Kung Fu quote:

    Master Po: Where is evil? In the rat, whose nature it is to steal the grain, or in the cat, whose nature it is to kill the rat?

    Disciple Caine: The rat steals, yet for him, the cat is evil.

    Po: And to the cat, the rat.

    Caine: And yet master, surely one of them is evil.

    Po: The rat does not steal. The cat does not murder. Rain falls, the stream flows, the hill remains. Each acts according to its nature.

    Caine: Then is there no evil for men? Each man tells himself that what he does is good.

    Po: Grasshopper! A man may tell himself many things, but is a man’s universe made only of himself?

    Caine: If a man hurts me, and I punish him, perhaps he will not hurt another.

    Po: And if you do nothing?

    Caine: Perhaps he will believe he may do as he wishes.

    Po: Perhaps. But perhaps he will learn that some men receive injury, but return kindness.

  5. 6

    Not that many grasshoppers in these parts. I grew up in Montana, where they were extremely common in the summer, and kind of miss them.

    The “wingless” ones might actually be nymphs — grasshoppers, IIRC, don’t have a larval phase or go through metamorphosis like other insects but instead hatch out of the egg looking more or less like miniature adults.

    Oh, and I well recall the “tobacco juice” thing!

  6. 7

    Reminds me of a mark-recapture population study we did when I took ecology back in the late Pleistocene. We had to capture as many grasshoppers as we could within our study plot, count them, and put a dot of blue acrylic paint on their thorax. We then released them, and came back a couple of days later to recapture as many as we could. The ratio of marked to unmarked hoppers allowed us to estimate the population.

    Imagine a bunch of college students running around trying to catch as many grasshoppers as they can. We were doing science, and it was a hoot!

    Back in those days, of course, they were woolly grasshoppers…

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