Calendar of Cool: Plague of Grasshoppers

July 27, 1931 isn’t likely to be forgotten by citizens of several states in the American west. It was on this day that thick swarms of grasshoppers descended upon Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota, destroying thousands of acres of crops.

Residents described the insect swarms as so thick that they could be scooped up by the shovelful. Motorists sometimes could not see well enough to drive. The grasshoppers ate corn plants down to the ground, consuming even the thick stalks. Grasshopper eggs are laid in the soil and are susceptible to fungal diseases when the soil is wet, so more eggs survive and hatch during dry years. This means swarms often occur during periods of drought.

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Corn is a very important and popular crop on American farms, and this huge swarm of grasshoppers would have devastated the corn crop in the region that year. Luckily, corn grows to maturity fairly quickly, but this unexpected plague was a huge blow to farmers.

cornOf course, grasshoppers don’t just eat; they’re also known for their singing! They don’t sing the way humans do, using mouths or vocal chords. Instead they rub their wings together quickly to create their signature chirping sound, in hopes of attracting a mate. The 1931 grasshopper invasion would have been an incredibly noisy event!

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While this huge grasshopper invasion did a lot of damage, it’s the sort of apocalyptic event you’d expect to see in a disaster movie. Only this time, it happened in real life, and that’s undeniably cool.

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