Hopper Shock and Awe-ful

I am for beautiful images, thoughtful words, silver days and the wonderful metaphors to be found in tiny gardens, but …

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Portrait of a ‘pest’

I struggle to find a good thing to say about grasshoppers!

Warning! Violence and disturbing word imagery.

Recently my tiny garden has been overrun by grass hoppers. Brown ones, striped ones, green ones, big and small. Now I’m normally a little squeamish when it comes to the needless taking of life but in this instance the killing wasn’t needless and the life in the balance is my treasured dwarf lemon tree.

I recall my usually mild-mannered mother taking to garden pests with her secateurs, chopping  them mercilessly. It was my first lesson in the diverse colours of blood according to which species was being rendered in two. Caterpillars oozed green for example, a rather cool fact for a curious six year old. It led to all kinds of speculation. I wanted to be a princess if only for the fact that being royal would come with ‘blue blood’. But I digress …

I always thought I aspired to a ‘live and let live’ philosophy. In the spirit of abundance theory there is always plenty to go around. Imagine my surprise when confronted with the impending annihilation of my treasured lemon, my alter ego took an alternative path – one of murderous revenge. The fine white dust you see on the leaves and fruit is sifted flour recommended as a natural remedy because it interrupts the insects’ ability to chew the leaves. It was unsuccessful. I have a new respect for these persistent little critters. I hesitate to detail other more bloodthirsty means employed. Suffice to say I am my mother’s daughter.

This particular tree is like a recalcitrant child. Despite my having lavished care and attention on it, moving it to more suitable conditions, feeding it with special purpose fertilisers, seeing to correct drainage, aspect and so on … the tree remains uncooperative and demanding, and yes, to be honest, downright ungrateful. You will see on closer inspection of the photo, it still suffers from magnesium deficiency (yellowing  of the leaves) despite repeated attempts to address the situation. And now to add further insult, it has declared open house to grasshoppers!

As I reflect on my reaction to all this, I struggle to find something useful to say. Why am I so angry about a perfectly natural occurrence? Pests (of all species) come and go. Conditions encourage and allow – or they don’t.

These are the rhythms of nature and of life. When I stand back and observe my reaction in a dispassionate way, I decide it is this – my very reaction, not the pest – that is causing the storm within.

The lemon tree may survive the latest attack or it may not. I’ve done my best for it. If it dies, it is not in vain. The lesson it proffered me has been understood.

As my nanna used to say: “These things are sent to try us.”

 

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Big brown grasshopper on ginger leaf

 

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Lemon tree – pre-grasshopper

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50 responses to “Hopper Shock and Awe-ful

  1. Your nanna was a wise woman. As all nanna’s tend to be. Mine certainly was, and some of my best memories with her are when she was in her cottage garden tending her veges, fruit trees and whatever else she was trying her hand at. My parents had a great garden in inner city Toowoomba. So many varieties of fruit trees — oranges, grapefruit, lemons, a wild plum, a mulberry (popular when the silkworms were in vogue) and best of all (in my opinion), a huge fig tree. We also had chooks, and I had so much joy feeding them and collecting their eggs…the chooks may not have been so keen on the loss of them though. But I digress – Mum’s lemon trees were a battle every year – I recall it was some sort of fungus that blackened the leaves, and try as she might, she could never successfully rid the trees of this rot. I recall she would throw her arms up and curse the heavens, resigned to the fact that her loves would be attacked on an annual basis. So I get where you are coming from.
    Another great post, Robyn. Happy gardening. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh the memories you evoke! The fig tree was a special favourite of mine, and the mulberries – although the stains were a despair for my mother. Evidence of silkworms would be found in shoe boxes at the bottom of cupboards long after the cocoons had been spun and the moths escaped, also much to her despair. We had chooks and ducks too. I had a long suffering bantam hen called Henny Penny who I carried around in my doll’s pram. The darned rooster attacked me and Dad chopped off his head, Game of Thrones style! We also had a prop style clothes line – who remembers those? I loved the smell of sun-drenched sheets freshly harvested from that old clothesline.
      Thanks for reminding me – different times.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. …and you returned the favour with memories of those spent cocoons, prop style clotheslines and life back then. I have a memory from when I lived in the States of those clotheslines — used by 3 women I came across with a little business on the side of a busy highway in North Carolina – they weren’t airing their laundry, instead they were using the lines to display their beautifully handcrafted quilts. That memory has stayed in my mind until just now. My sister made our little dog sit in her doll’s pram; he was so patient. I am reminded again of how treasured our memories become and I can only begin to imagine what it is like to lose access to them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • What a lovely way to display quilts! There are still some backyards that have prop clothes lines. My sister in the Sapphire Coast hinterland of Southern New South Wales still has one.
      Yes, many a long suffering pet was dressed up and wheeled around in a doll’s pram like my hen and your sister’s dog.
      Losing my memories would be unthinkable for me. So much else is lost in that process.

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  3. I still have a “prop style” clothes line and a long wooden prop but unfortunately the UK weather doesn’t allow it to be used very often unless you keep one eye on the weather all the time. here you never know when it will rain- even when there is sun in the sky!!!
    I think your heritage must be north British as here in the north out grandparents were called nana and granda. right I am off out cycling as a dry day is forecast – cant waste it.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Gosh Brenda, the weather must be challenging on wash days. Do people still have ‘wash days’? With indoor drying rooms and electric dryers the smell of wind and sun on the sheets is becoming a thing of the past.
      I do have British heritage but also Chinese and Scandinavian – a bit of a melting pot my family.
      Hope you enjoyed your ride!

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  4. I’m a believer in live and let live too, but I did feel murderous when a wasp (or wasps) made a couple of my monarch caterpillars disappear. Worse, my swan plants developed some sort of mildew and died, so I haven’t had any caterpillars at all this year. I thought I’d wait a while before I got more swan plants.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Another common name for swan plant is milkweed. A garden shop website gives the botanical name as Asclepias fruiticosa. It’s the only plant that monarchs eat, and people who grow swan plants do so with a view to raising butterflies. The plants usually recover from having all their leaves eaten by the caterpillars, though I’ve also heard of people putting veils on alternate plants to give them a year off from being eaten.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks for the info on swan plants. I plan to look it up. I use to have Blue Monarchs in my old garden but haven’t seen any here. Are you familiar with the Richmond Bird-wing Butterfly? Its indigenous to this area and is just the most beautiful thing you could imagine. I want to get the vine it feeds from and breeds on. Would love to have it in my garden.

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      • I just googled the Richmond Birdwing, and see that its endangered. Sad that so many butterflies are under threat. They were a common sight when we were kids, but apart from the ubiquitous cabbage white the only ones I see round here are Monarchs and Yellow Admirals. Good luck with the Richmond Birdwing – I’m sure the grandchildren would enjoy cultivating butterflies.

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      • I agree. So many frogs and birds too when you remember what it used to be like. I have enjoyed reviving my love of nature with the grandies. One of the good things about getting older – more time.

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  5. Wouldn’t gardening be just too easy if not for the pests? 🙂 I mean, you can be even more proud of your flowers and trees if you were challenged to defeat an infestation of some sort along the way. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes you are quite right. In fact I believe everything has a place. It is human manipulation (me in my courtyard) that creates the perceived imbalance. And yes, you are correct to say challenges make it more worthwhile when I get good results. Thanks for the thoughts.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I had no idea grasshoppers could be so destructive. When I saw the first photo I said to myself “awe, how cute a little grasshopper.” Then of course while reading your post I had to rectify my initial assessment b/c if I were overrun with these insects they would cease to be cute. For the record I’m not crazy about quite a number of bugs but there are a select few that are more tolerable than others. Add to it the fact that I can’t keep anything green alive (pathetic, I know) I’ve even killed cactus and bamboo I know virtually next to nothing about the destructive nature of a number of these species insects.

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  7. I think the recalcitrant child needs a little more time, but those grasshoppers! ZuZu would love to help if she lived near you. In the fall, when they are most abundant around here, she pounces on them and crunches away( when we are in our gazebo) much to Roxie’s disgust.
    I think swan plant is a lovely name for milkweed. We have a field of it at the end of our road and I have taken many photos there.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I love this blog Robyn for many reasons but most of all even with my limited imagination I can visualise you secateurs in hand reliving your dear mother’s strategy for dealing with those pesky pests!! Your nana was so right too. x

    Liked by 1 person

  9. My garden too has been recently invaded by tiny green grasshoppers and they are decimating some plants. I have resorted to fly spray – the plants seem to have coped with it!

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    • Thanks for the tip Karolyn. I’ll try it. I’m curious as to why there aren’t more birds taking advantage of the feast. Do you think birds feel too restricted in tiny courtyards like ours?

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  10. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

    1) How did you take that pic with grasshopper?

    And 2) How did you do it without freaking out?

    I hate insects and arachnids. Then again you live on a continent where almost every living creature can maim you in some fashion.

    I can’t help but notice you’re a quite skilled with your camera… Any tips to pass along?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love bugs! But like you, I’m an arachnophobe, so if a spider gets tangled in my hair you’ll hear my shrieks for blocks.
      I make no claims to being a photographer so I’m really pleased that you enjoyed the photos- all done on my iPhone. The darn grasshoppers kept jumping away when I got too close so I guess patience was the key. Could have been sharper though. Thanks for visiting.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Like you, Robyn I’ve noticed baby grasshoppers in our Gold Coast garden. It must be breeding season! I’ve managed to kill quite a few because they are babies but I’m wondering where their mama is😩
    Your post was timely because it was only the other day I was thinking about the power we humans have over the insect world. I would never think to snuff the life out of a gecko or a garden lizard because they feed on grasshoppers, cockroaches, spiders etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, but … what makes the life of a bug less worthy???? Why do I have no qualms about squashing a cockroach but not a ladybug? Do we have a hierarchy of worthiness? Something to ponder in the wee small sleepless hours.

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      • It could have something to do with reputation or mind association. Butterflies, lady bugs and fairies. Cockroaches sneaky and creepy! Destroy at all cost before they multiply!!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Mmm … so it does come down to what we deem ‘worthy’ in relation to us? Cockroaches: food spoilers, germs? Butterflies and bees: pretty, fairy like, pollinators? Grasshoppers: cute until they eat my garden! Thanks for the philosophical input. : )

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Grasshoppers always seem oblivious to all the frustration they cause and just keep nibbling. I’m glad you decided to forfeit the lemon tree Robyn in exchange for restoring peace to the tiny garden.
    (Note to self: don’t outstay welcome at Robyn’s place; particularly if she’s holding secateurs.)

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  13. The year I moved to the USA (1998), an amazing event occurred — as happens every 17 years, millions of cicadas came out of the ground to mate, reproduce and die. They set up the next “generation” of cicadas that will emerge in 17 years on…and on…and on. I recall we had planted some columbines and a few other flowers I hadn’t seen in Australia. The next morning they had been decimated by the sheer weight of the cicadas. It made a lot of sense at that point, why locals had various plants protected by certain fabrics obviously designed to bear weight from the swarms. This quote says it all: “It’s so overwhelming and phenomenal for human beings,” said James Kalisch, an entomologist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “It’s a big event for entomologists, realizing that in one lifespan a human being only has so many opportunities to see them.”

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    • How fascinating Kim. I remember cicadas of my childhood,the din they made in summer evenings, the joy of finding there empty ‘cases’ still perfectly formed in the cicada shape. My dad showed me how they made that noise by rubbing their legs against the carapace. I wasn’t aware of the 17 year cycle. Imagine having to cover plants to prevent them being squashed. I don’t hear them at all where I live now. Does that mean we are waiting for a new generation?

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