We have a lot of grasshoppers on our present property, though the overall numbers have been down in the past six years, with our Junes being on the cool and wet side. We’re finding in our yard that by August they are coming in from the field beside us, so are plentiful enough to do serious damage to our flowers and gardens.
We’re thankful that chemical companies are providing some effective weapons nowadays against this prairie plague. And we’re SO thankful that we’re not seeing numbers or damage like in the 1930s.
In addition to eating every green thing in sight, my mother-in-law told us, hoppers would eat the paint off houses and chew holes in clothes hung out to dry. A friend says he’s seen them eat holes in fence posts. Apparently their mandibles were strong enough to tear the bark from trees. In Regina, when the plague was at its worst, they’d eat holes in the silk stockings of female clerks and secretaries as they rushed to work or from one building to another.
They say hoppers could strip an entire farm in a day. Cities weren’t spared the plague, either; folks said that walking in downtown Regina was like crunching over a million peanut shells. At times they came in such thick clouds there wasn’t room for them all on the ground at one time.
According to Pierre Burton in his book The Great Depression that one swarm-‒containing millions of insects -‒was in flight over Lake Winnipeg when it was trapped by a cold updraft from off the lake. The pests fell into the water, drowned, and were washed ashore. According to reports at the time, “Their bodies covered a twenty-mile strip of beach to a depth of several feet.”
For Saskatchewan the worst grasshopper invasion came in 1938, destroying a lot of what looked like the first bumper crop on the prairies after the drought. Clouds of the pests swept through the skies over Regina and Saskatoon in late July. The insects worked through the fields in narrow strips, devouring everything in their path. Then came a second and even worse invasion.
August 11th saw the worst blizzard of grasshoppers anyone had ever seen in Regina. There were hoppers everywhere; they covered sides of buildings, sidewalks, roads, telephone lines. Then it rained. Their bodies were washed into‒and clogged‒the storm sewers; streets were flooded. Street cars could hardly go because the rails were greased with squashed grasshoppers. One poor fellow was in the dentist’s chair having a tooth filled when a hopper flew in the window and landed in his throat!)
Mercy arrived August 22nd, when tens of thousands of Franklin gulls flew in and began a gluttonous feast. This “organic warfare” was extremely effective, too. However, the seagulls were so stuffed that for several days they could barely get airborne!