November 13, 2013

"Grasshoppers boiled in every direction, ricocheting off my face and chest."

"Some latched on to my bare arms and a few tangled their spiny legs into my hair. Others began to crawl into my clothing — beneath my shorts, under my collar. They worked their way into the gaps between shirt buttons, pricking my chest, sliding down my sweaty torso. For the first time in my life as an entomologist, I panicked."

Jeffrey Lockwood, in "The Infested Mind," quoted at The Dish.

Too bad that book's not out on Kindle. I ended up buying "Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon's Army & Other Diabolical Insects," which is.

ADDED: "Wicked Bugs" also uses the verb "to boil" to describe grasshoppers:
A plague of locusts swept across the American West in the summer of 1875.... When the larvae hatched in the spring, it looked like the ground was boiling with them....

A locust... is little more than a grasshopper under pressure.... Grasshoppers usually forage alone, spreading out across large areas when food is plentiful. But during a drought, the creatures might be crowded together, and that proximity brings on chemical changes that cause the females to lay very different eggs. The nymphs that hatch from those eggs grow longer wings, have a propensity to live more closely together and travel in dense packs, and are themselves capable of laying eggs that can survive longer periods of dormancy. They even change color. In essence, a fairly benign, stable grasshopper population transforms itself into something entirely different— a migratory plague of locusts capable of swarming and devouring everything in its path.

This explains why the settlers claimed to have never seen these particular locusts before the ominous swarms arrived, and why plagues of locusts have always been seen as having some divine origin. They are entirely unfamiliar creatures, having transformed themselves from ordinary grasshoppers to larger, darker, never-before-seen invaders.
Here's a nice illustration, from the Kansas Historical Society website:

6 comments:

EDH said...

"This explains why the settlers claimed to have never seen these particular locusts before the ominous swarms arrived, and why plagues of locusts have always been seen as having some divine origin. They are entirely unfamiliar creatures, having transformed themselves from ordinary grasshoppers to larger, darker, never-before-seen invaders."

Younger voters are much less critical of the administration’s response than voters 40 and over are. Most voters under 40 think the president was honestly mistaken about the impact of the health care law...

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

Young Caine: Old man, how is it that you hear these things?

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

Helenhightops said...

Pullulating pests may be better than boiling bugs.

Michael K said...

It sounds as though the writer knows the story of Napoleon's invasion of Russia, which was that the Grande Armee was destroyed by typhus, not the Russians. It was a dry summer, discouraging washing of clothes, and because of Polish partisan reprisals, the French soldiers slept in louse infested houses. The result was devastating typhus epidemics. Typhus was also called "Gaol Fever".

It was World War I before wounds killed more soldiers than disease.

Sam L. said...

If you drive across North Dakota, your vehicle will grow eyebrows of hopper legs in every crevice in front.

CWJ said...

Althouse,

What? No men in shorts tag? Serves him right!

Peter Hoh said...

I heard Amy Stewart speak during her publicity tour for Wicked Plants. She was delightful, and I promptly bought the book. Somehow, I missed the news that she had followed that up with Wicked Bugs. Will have to add that one to my Christmas list.