Monday, August 22, 2011

A nemesis in the garden


Does anyone see a problem with this picture? Well, I do...it's a grasshopper!! I know what you must be thinking...what's the problem? First off, they scare me to death (I'll explain in a minute). Second, this guy and at least one friend have decided to "live" in a couple of my plants. Everyone knows how much I love my plants. I love going out in the morning sun and giving them a sprinkle. It's what I would consider "me" time. A few minutes each day I hold sacred.

About 2 weeks ago, while enjoying some "me" time, I made it to the corner of the porch to water the last of the plants. As I started watering the sedum (above), a grasshopper came popping out and landed on another plant. I almost dropped the watering can. I regained my composure, finished watering (very careful not to disturb the grasshopper) and came back inside. I thought that was the end of it. I told myself, "He'll be gone tomorrow." Well, I was wrong. Every day for the past two weeks has been an adventure. At first it seemed as if I was watering the grasshopper and making him bigger. But I soon noticed a slightly smaller one was "hanging out with" the big guy. I can never predict which plant they will be in (they "live" part-time in 3 different ones).

Everyone in the house thinks I'm crazy to be scared of such small insects. But, as I'm about to share with you - some things in childhood are not so easily forgotten.

One afternoon, we (me, my mom and my sisters) walked up to my aunt's house. At the time, we all lived on about 6+ acres of land. So, all we had to do was walk up a hill for a visit. We stayed for a while and when we were ready to leave we walked outside. My family are known talkers - so as my mom and aunt continued their conversation out on the lawn - the kids played close by. We were all small children. I was around 5 at the time and my sisters are 2 and 3 years younger than me.
I was standing there, when all of a sudden I could feel something in my pant's leg. I started to do a shimmy and then a hop. My mom and aunt looked at me (thinking I was just being funny) and started to laugh. I hopped some more and really started to freak out. I was shaking the leg of my pants - still hopping - and started to cry. They were still laughing until they realized I was really freaking out and came running over to find out what the problem was. They came over - shook me (and my pants) and out came a grasshopper (locust size).

To this day (32 years later), I don't trust grasshoppers. Over the years, I have learned to tolerate (and not freak out over) tiny ones. I have managed to even deal with the ones who are about an inch long. Much longer than that...and I can't take it! I have no idea how long my nemesis and his buddy will be here. They are definitely unwanted "porch guests", but what can I do? This is an fine example of learning to take the good with the bad. Will this STOP me from watering my plants or trying to enjoy some "me" time? Never! But, it WILL have me watching for the unexpected jumper headed my way.

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A young grasshopper exoskeleton
As a side note...during this experience I was able to see an unexpected thing. I noticed this exoskeleton hanging on the side of a plant one day. I didn't know they shed their outer layers. This is what I was able to find out...

Young grasshoppers
When they hatch, young grasshoppers look like adults but they don't have wings. After about 40 to 60 days a young grasshopper is an adult. As they grow, the grasshoppers shed their exoskeleton. This shedding is called moulting. Each time they moult, there is a new, bigger exoskeleton underneath. This is because insects don't have skin that stretches as they grow. The young grasshoppers moult up to six times. After the last moult, they have wings.

Until next time - Happy Gardening and here's to giving your heart a daily workout! (I know mine's getting one!)

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