Thursday, November 2, 2017

When grasshoppers came to dinner

How do you maintain your ecological wits
when Mother Nature turns on you? 
We returned home after a couple of weeks traveling and Félix reported everything was fine, except for a not-so-minor detail: Our ranch is under attack by an overnight blitzkrieg of thousands, hundreds of thousands—millions for I all know—of chapulines or grasshoppers.

I went out this morning and in fact there are grasshoppers on the window screens, rose bushes, the vegetable garden—practically every plant with tender foliage is under attack. Chapulines abruptly ended the tomato and cucumber growing season, along with our parsley, cilantro and basil plants.

Grasshopper through a window pane. 
The only plants left intact seem to be thick-leaved succulents, though I'm sure the grasshoppers are discussing attacking them too when they've finished off everything else.

Worst of all there is nothing much we can do to contain the destruction except for one I idea I have but don't dare implement.
Following our organic mantra, Stew and I have maintained a laissez-faire approach to bugs. We figure ninety percent of them don't cause much damage and, occasionally, are even fascinating to watch.
Hoppers at work. 

That involves far more faire than laissez, considering the number of insect and other little wild visitors we have: Paper wasps, crickets, flies (numerous and annoying especially when you're trying to read in bed), spiders and small tarantulas and even the occasional frog on the bathroom sink, bees (probably our own), beetles, earwigs and a dozens of other species too weird to describe much less name. We're not sure how they all get in.

Oddly, we don't get many mosquitos or cockroaches. A small garden snake, once. Mice are kept at bay by our team of two somnolent cats, one of them sixteen years old.

We have a catch-and-release method consisting of a plastic cottage cheese carton which we put over the uninvited visitor and then we slip a five-by-seven index card under it and deposit the critter outside.

A friendly spider was escorted outside.
A major exception recently were ants, black or red, I can't remember, which got into the bedroom. They came in through a small hole in the windows, single file, and then gathered on the wall forming black blotches as if planning an attack on us. That called for an emergency purchase of inorganic pesticide.

As far as the chapulines, they are going beserko-mundo in the yard as I write this, and I haven't found any non-ridiculous organic control.

What I've found are some purported solutions ranging from ground garlic to spreading flour on the infected plants. The weakest points of these suggestions is that they have to be used before the grasshoppers arrive, not after they've eaten everything in sight. What's the point then?

Crop dusting the property with DDT, which is probably still legal in Mexico, comes to mind.

But if that sounds too draconian, how about eating the little buggers? I tried them in Oaxaca, here in San Miguel and at an excellent restaurant in Mérida. They are salty, almost spicy, and taste best when you focus your mind on Trump, the World Series or anything other than what you're eating.

Grasshoppers don't look or taste like chicken. 
There's even a website and foodie movement of folks who eat bugs.  Insects are high in protein and are more environmentally friendly that cows and pigs who do enough mindless burping and flatulating to raise global temperatures by a couple of degrees, or so I hear.

The insect site is cleverly called Bug Vivant, "Gastronomy on Six Legs." A Gringo Chapulines Recipe provides detailed ingredients and instructions, but cautions that the chapulines must be precooked except that I couldn't find directions for that one essential step.

Do you have to pull the legs and wings off, or just throw the whole grasshopper into a food processor set to "mush beyond recognition." Chopping and dicing? 

Bagging the required load of chapulines in the yard should be no problema right now though cajoling them into the food processor likely will be tricky. They are not called "hoppers" for nothing. 

Crickets anyone?
 When all fails I ask Félix, who when stumped sometimes will offer some folkloric Mexican solution involving the next full moon, the braying of the donkeys, or some such.

But on the chapulines crisis he had no answers, even crazy ones. We just have to wait until the cold weather arrives and kills off the critters, he said. Given that today it's about eighty degrees and partly cloudy, that could take a while.

Until then I'll just have to wear ear plugs to shield me from that relentless crunching sound coming from the outside.


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