Archive for Thursday, August 18, 2011

100 years ago: Lutherans enjoy annual picnic in Lawrence

August 18, 2011


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for Aug. 18, 1911:

"The annual Sunday School and church picnic of the Lutheran church will be held tomorrow afternoon at Woodland Park. Lutheran picnics are always great things but this one promises to be better than ever. The principal and most attractive part of the program will be the free ice cream and lemonade that will be served the members of the church and Sunday school. This is always a feature of the Lutheran picnics and one that is highly appreciated."

"The new drygoods store of Innes, Bullene & Hackman at the corner of Massachusetts and Warren streets, was opened to the public this morning at 9 o'clock. And what a store it is, all new and complete and up-to-date in every department.... There are higher buildings in Kansas, but there is no better one. The Journal-World is mightily pleased with the enterprise back of this new building. It means the right kind of spirit."

"Hordes of grasshoppers visited the city of Independence, Kan., Tuesday. Old settlers said there had not been such a visitation of the pests since the early days, when they destroyed the crops and ate everything in the shape of vegetation."


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

The last paragraph of the article stated: "Hordes of grasshoppers visited the city of Independence, Kan., Tuesday. Old settlers said there had not been such a visitation of the pests since the early days, when they destroyed the crops and ate everything in the shape of vegetation."

I think that the old settlers were not zoologists, and were confusing the Rocky Mountain Locust with the common grasshopper. The Rocky Mountain Locust was responsible for the locust swarms that did so much damage at the end of the 1800s. It is now extinct, luckily for American farmers.

The article I am clipping here from Wikipedia agrees very much with my earlier readings on the subject, so I believe it to be accurate:

The Rocky Mountain Locust (Melanoplus spretus) was the most important locust species that ranged through almost the entire western half of the United States (and some western portions of Canada) until the end of the 19th century. Sightings often placed their swarms in numbers far larger than any other species of locust, with one famed sighting having been estimated at 198,000 square miles (513,000 km²) in size (greater than the area of California), weighing 27.5 million tons, and consisting of some 12.5 trillion insects - the greatest concentration of animals ever recorded, according to The Guinness Book of Records.[1]

But less than 30 years later, the species was apparently extinct, with the last recorded sighting of a live specimen in 1902 in southern Canada. And because no one expected such a ubiquitous creature to become extinct, very few samples were ever collected (though a few preserved remains have been found in Grasshopper Glacier, Montana). Though grasshoppers still cause significant crop damage today, their populations do not even approach the densities of true locusts. Had the Rocky Mountain locust continued to survive, North American agriculture would likely have had to adapt to its presence (North America is the only populated continent without a major locust).

[1] Melanoplus spretus, Rocky Mountain grasshopper. Animal Diversity Web. University of Michigan Museum of Zoology. Last accessed 2009-04-16

It has occurred to me that if the Rocky Mountain Locust were not extinct, jet travel as we know it today would not be possible.

gr 6 years, 8 months ago

Without confusing it with a cicada, I thought a grasshopper WAS a locust. Further to add to the confusion is calling it the Rocky Mountain grasshopper. Could you distinguish between the two.

"But less than 30 years later, the species was apparently extinct," And I wouldn't be so sure that it is extinct. Just waiting for the right conditions.
In the last few years, I've seen grasshopper types I've never seen before. They seemed to be increasing. Then I don't see any last year and this one. I've read that regular grasshoppers, given certain unknown conditions, start exhibiting different appearances and behavior. They start forming "hordes" and traveling as such while under other circumstances, they are relatively docile and low key. I see no reason not to expect such types in the future.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 8 months ago

Some biologists agree with you, and are concerned that the Rocky Mountain Locust may somehow someday make a comeback because of mutations for unknown reasons. That would present a serious problem for agriculture.

I've also seen grasshoppers that were simply not true to type. For instance, when I was young, I found many totally black ones, and some that were literally red, white, and blue. And those all had a perfectly identical color pattern. I have not seen either of those since the 1960s.

But at the present time the Rocky Mountain Locust is recognized as a distinct species, even though it is extinct today.

clipped: "Locusts are the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae. These are species that can breed rapidly under suitable conditions and subsequently become gregarious and migratory. They form bands as nymphs and swarms as adults—both of which can travel great distances, rapidly stripping fields and greatly damaging crops."

So yes, you are correct, a grasshopper is a locust. But, so are many other species of the family Acrididae.

gr 6 years, 8 months ago

I still question "extinct". Any reason that something which eats most anything, travels long distances, no greater predators than any other grasshopper, would become extinct? I find it hard to believe that farming destroyed all their eggs everywhere and yet not other grasshoppers. I would tend to go with what you clipped about the swarming phase of a grasshopper, which said it better than I did.

Here's another clip which to me suggests that all grasshoppers could become swarming types: There is no taxonomic difference between locust and grasshopper species, and in English the term "locust" is used for grasshopper species that change morphologically and behaviourally on crowding, to form swarms or hopper bands (of immature stages). These changes, or phase polymorphism, were first identified by Sir Boris Petrovich Uvarov, who studied the desert locust, whose solitary and gregarious phases had previously been thought of as separate species. Charles Valentine Riley and Norman Criddle were also involved in the understanding and destructive control of locusts.

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