Grasshopper Plagues

 Did everyone think grasshoppers were bad?

Many Indian tribes such as the Ute, Southern Paiute, and Shoshokos found the grasshopper to be an essential part of their daily diet. The grasshoppers were high in protein, energy, and fat. Basically there were two ways the Native Americans captured the grasshoppers. One way was to have many people surround the grasshoppers and drive them into a pit by beating the ground with sticks, trying to make as much noise as possible scaring the grasshoppers into the pit. The hole that they dug would have been about ten to twelve feet in diameter and four or five feet deep. Sometimes the Native Americans would catch the grasshoppers near a stream or body of water and drive the grasshoppers into the water, where they would scoop up the grasshoppers with baskets.

Some of the Native Americans liked to boil the grasshoppers and put them into stews and soups. Another way of preparing the grasshopper was to crush them into paste and let them dry near a fire or in the sun. Some Native Americans liked the simple and easy way of fixing them, this was roasting them over an open fire. Finally, fruitcake was another way of preparing grasshoppers. First they would roast the grasshoppers and then grind them into fine pieces and mix with berries, nuts, and seeds to make "Desert Fruitcake. The cakes would be dried in the sun and could last long periods of time.

Some of the early settlers found that in order to survive the plagues they would have to eat the grasshoppers. Some prepared the grasshoppers with salt, pepper and butter and fried them. They reported that prepared this way, they tasted just like crawfish. Other settlers elected to put their grasshoppers in broth's and stews. All of the settlers did agree that the legs and wings would have to come off before eating them. The grasshoppers seem to have a distinct smell when preparing them, however once they were fried or cooked they seemed to loose that aroma. Some people around St. Louis were quoted as saying " I would have grasshoppers on my menu everyday if I could get them". Once people got past the point of them being grasshoppers and looked at them as a food they seemed to embrace the hopper as a food. However these people who seemed to enjoy the grasshoppers as a fine food, did not have to watch as the grasshoppers went through a field of wheat or a beautiful green garden. Many settlers would just as soon starve as eat the insect that had just destroyed their farm.

Missouri entomologist, C. V. Ross, presented a paper on his experiences with Rocky Mountain Locusts as a food. Here are some of his comments:

"I found the chitinous covering and the corneous parts - especially the spines of the tibia - dry and chippy, and somewhat irritating to the throat. This objection would not apply, with the same force, to the mature individuals, especially of larger species, where the heads, legs,and wings are carefully separated before cooking. In fact, some of the mature insects prepared in this way, then boiled and afterward stewed with a few vegetables, and a little butter, pepper, salt and vinegar, made an excellent fricassee."

Rocky Mountain Locust Natural History
Grasshopper Gathering Equipment
Actual Missouri Accounts
Grasshoppers and a Sense of Humor
Destitute Settlers
Were they all bad?
Grasshoppers and Trains
Do we still have Grasshopper Plagues?
Missouri Legislation
What can we learn from the Grasshopper Plagues?
Damage Estimates and Restitution
Grasshopper Plague links

This page was designed and is maintained by Brad Evans and Lyndon N. Irwin.