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Insect swarms have been in the news this summer.

This week it was pallid-winged grasshoppers in Las Vegas (see for example, this story in LiveScience) or check out this AP video

The grasshoppers aren't the only ones.  Last week there was an article about flying ants in Britain being picked up by weather satellites (Guardian article) and in June it was supposedly ladybugs in Southern California (LA Times article) spotted on weather radar, although later reports say no one could verify which insects were actually detected.

Although these swarms can be alarming or exciting depending on your perspective, they are completely natural. Because insects may reproduce rapidly when food supplies are high and enemies are sparse, many species have the potential to build up to high numbers.

In fact, it is probably not amazing that insect blizzards happen, but that that don't happen even more often.

In a matter of days the insects either migrate away, are eaten, or come to the end of their life cycles. As quickly as they appear, they are gone again.

So for now, grasshoppers are simply having their 15 minutes of fame (or is it infamy?)

As I pointed out in one of my other blogs, I recently went to a u-pick farm. But instead of vegetables, I brought home photographs.

The sunflowers were glorious.

But of course, I spotted the grasshopper.

Wait, why does it have its left antenna down? In the previous photograph the antennae were up.

Oh. It's walking forward. Where is it going?

Perhaps it's going to continue snacking on the sunflower petals, because that seems to be where its left antenna is aimed.

Who knew grasshoppers used their antennae for GPS?

Let's take a look at a couple of photographs sent in by my cousin.

(Photograph by Karen Gibson, used with permission)

How did she ever spot this mostly green grasshopper hiding on a green plant?

 

(Photograph by Karen Gibson, used with permission)

Looks a lot different close up! Can you see the bright yellow semi-lunar process at the "knee joint" of the hind legs? (See previous post about grasshoppers for details).

This species has an unusual common name:  obscure bird grasshopper,  Schistocerca obscura.

Turns out the plant is unusual, too. Called the citronella plant or mosquito plant geranium, Pelargonium citrosum, it is a scented geranium that smells like another plant, citronella. Citronella is supposed to chase away mosquitoes, although there's some question whether the scented geranium has the same effect.

In any case, a scented geranium that smells like citronella evidently does not chase away grasshoppers.

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Thanks to Karen for permission to use her photographs.