A Plague of Grasshoppers and New Reviews

What do a plague of grasshoppers and reviews for Artemis Awakening have in common? Well, the most obvious link is that they were the two most interesting things to happen to me this last week.

One of the Invaders

One of the Invaders

I think it was last Wednesday when I walked out into my yard to put some coffee grounds in the compost bin and the ground underfoot appeared to explode upwards. I literally jumped back several feet, nearly scattering coffee grounds to all sides. When I recovered from my surprise, I discovered what you (courtesy of the spoiler in the title) already have figured out. My yard was inundated with grasshoppers.

I know the word “inundated” is most commonly used for liquid materials like water and mud, but I use it deliberately here. There were so many grasshoppers that they seemed to flow up from the ground like water, moving away from me in a wave that was only interrupted when they hit the side of the house or one of the fences. It was positively creepy.

In this first encounter, the grasshoppers and I didn’t make physical contact. However, as the week went on, their numbers increased. Now, when the grasshoppers erupted from where they were hidden among the foliage, they went any which way. The majority still went away from me, but a fair number – probably reacting to the space in front of them being filled by their fellows – bounced back in my direction. I had to be careful to check my hair and clothing before going into the house, lest I carry along an unwelcome hijacker or two.

Unwelcome, I should say, to me. My four cats thought the grasshoppers were the best toys ever, better even than the occasional lizard that slips in under the porch door or the impossible to capture flying creatures. Two year-old Persephone even forewent meals if she even thought a grasshopper had gotten into the house. I’m not sure what was more interesting: watching her hunt an actual grasshopper or watching her search for the grasshopper she was certain was there, but wasn’t. Cats certainly have at least as much imagination as do writers. Maybe that’s why we get along so well.

Despite being soundly annoying, so far the plague of grasshoppers hasn’t been too terrible. They are much smaller than the ones we normally get in late summer. So far, they haven’t shown much interest in my plants. I blame them for the vanishing of a couple of beet seedlings, but that could be unfair. I’m sure we have other predators that would find tender beet greens tempting.
But we’re definitely in a “wait and see” pattern. For one, I have no idea if these grasshoppers will mature into the big green ones that do eat my plants – especially, for some reason, scarlet runner bean pods. The other is that we took advantage in a lull in the winds (which picked up again) to put some young plants in the ground: two types of tomatoes, several varieties of peppers, and ichiban eggplant. So far, the grasshoppers are ignoring them. The birds are also beginning to show an interest in adding grasshoppers to their diet. I’ve seen a few birds pick a grasshopper right out of the air. Maybe Nature will step in and provide a biological control.

Maybe not.

As I mentioned, the other new development this past week was that Artemis Awakening received more reviews from major reviewing organs. Both Library Journal and Kirkus weighed in on the “favorable” side of the balance. I understand that Artemis Awakening has a solid following on Good Reads as well. It was an io9 “pick” for May. What really makes me happy is that the reviewers seem interested not just in this one book, but in the promise of more to come.
I’ve also had queries from readers asking if I’ll be selling Artemis Awakening directly. The answer is “not now.” If you’re interested in a signed copy, you can either buy one and arrange to mail it to me (with SASE included) or contact one of the bookstores where I’ll be doing a signing. Right now, that includes Mysterious Galaxy, Borderlands Books, Page One Books, and Bookworks. Complete information as to dates and contact information are available on my website: http://www.janelindskold.com. Many independent bookstores (such as these) will arrange with you to have books signed and personalized, then ship the books to you. They’ll also have some signed stock afterwards.

However, if you’re interested in some of my older works – including many of the increasingly hard to find Avon mass market paperbacks and hard covers of most of my Tor novels (I’m sold out on some of the Firekeepers) – I have a bookstore page on my website. Unlike with sports and media stars, signing and personalization is done for no extra charge in archival quality ink, often in color! Do consider a signed book as a gift for that difficult person on your list. You can be sure to provide something no one else will!

Now to consider… I often hang my laundry outside. I wonder if I do so how many grasshoppers will it pick up?

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17 Responses to “A Plague of Grasshoppers and New Reviews”

  1. Paul Genesse Says:

    Hi Jane, Great news on AA! Congrats and it’s all sounding excellent. Too bad about the plague of locusts. It might be frogs next.

  2. Heteromeles Says:

    Mmm. Aren’t those grasshoppers what the Australian government tried to rebrand as “sky prawns,” back when they had a plague of locusts? Obviously your cats think so.

    Great news on the book and the tour. I hope it all goes swimmingly.

  3. Rowan Says:

    I can confirm the infestation of grasshoppers in other parts of our fair city, but the most dramatic examples I’ve seen so far are in Jane’s yard. Of course, my reaction is less “creepy,” and more “Yes! They move before me! Grasshopper minions!”

    …This may say something about my own level of creepiness.

  4. Chad Merkley Says:

    Based on the picture you shared, that looks like a mature grasshopper, with fully developed wings, and which is not likely to molt again. Grasshoppers are part of what are called hemimetabolous insects (basically “half-change”), meaning the juveniles more or less resemble the adults, except without fully-developed wings or genitalia. Each molt they get a little bigger, gradually developing mature characteristics. The phases between molts are called instars. Dragonflies and cicadas are also hemimetabolous.

    This is in contrast to holometabolous insects (“complete change”), which have a distinct larval stage, which molts several times, and then pupates and changes into a drastically different form, like caterpillars and butterflies, maggots and flies, and grubs and beetles.

    Anyway, Jane, I hope your garden doesn’t suffer from the grasshoppers. I’m looking forward to reading Artemis Awakening, although I convinced the local library to buy a copy instead of getting my own. Maybe when it comes out in paperback.

  5. Nicholas Wells Says:

    On the bright side, if you do set out laundry and catch a bunch, I’m sure the local Entomologist would be thrilled.

  6. Louis Robinson Says:

    I’ve been reading SFF far too long: I first read “Now to consider… I often hang my laundry outside. I wonder if I do so how many grasshoppers will it pick up?” as ” how many grasshoppers will _pick_it_ up?”, leaving me wondering why they wanted to take off with Jane’s laundry. Probably not to be discovered until Ch 32, at best. The secondary question of how many are needed for any given bit of clothing is no doubt answered sooner – and is low enough that any intelligent reader would know immediately that something was Seriously Wrong.

    • janelindskold Says:

      Is a giggle appropriate? Actually, I like the image of grasshoppers departing with my freshly laundered sheets. Less enchanting is the idea of finding I’d hauled a bunch inside.

  7. Paul Says:

    It sounds like AA is getting off with really good reviews. Can’t wait for it to hit bookstores. As for the grasshoppers, there’s a 1957 movie out there which you don’t want to watch right now, called “Beginning of the End,” in which Chicago is devastated by giant radioactive-created…grasshoppers!!

  8. Art Frost Says:

    The Grasshopper in the photo is indeed an adult; furthermore the picture is good enough to make some progress towards an identification. It is certainly a Banded-wing Grashopper (Family ACRIDIDAE, Subfamily OEDIPODINAE); beyond that I’m afraid I’m stuck with guesswork (but I’ll try anyway: the forewing pattern and pronotum shape suggest either _Hadrotettix_ or _Trimerotropis_; the first of these is a genus of two species, the latter has over forty; going further from a photo isn’t possible).

    • Chad Merkley Says:

      One of the things I like about these kinds of discussions is the way experts suddenly appear. My background focuses more on plants and birds than insects. I see Wikipedia does not have an article for for Hadrotettix, and almost all the labeled pictures coming up through Google are referred to H. trifasciatus. That just doesn’t quite match Jane’s picture, to my eye. However, Trimerotropis pallidipennis has a Wikipedia article noting its extensive range from Argentina to British Columbia, and stating that it us known as an irruptive species–large numbers suddenly appear at irregular intervals. A piece of circumstantial evidence to support Art’s identification. I don’t remember what characters were used to key out grasshoppers–it’s been about ten years from my one and only entomology lab course–but I’m sure it involves high magnification and large reference volumes. I do remember having to count the tarsal segments on beetle legs. Birds are much easier to ID, especially in the hand.

      • Art Frost Says:

        Not quite an expert here: case in point, the ID possibilities were from a flawed memory. Hadrotettix is out; Trimerotropis is probably the correct genus. The species _may_ be pallidipennis, but we’d need to see the hind tibia and hind wing to be sure. Jane: if you saw the critter in flight, was the hind wing yellow at the base? If so, pallidipennis becomes one of about two dozen possibilities.

  9. janelindskold Says:

    Best I can answer about the color of the hind wing is that when the darn things fly the wings are of a pale hue. Beyond that, I’m too busy dodging the darn things.

    My hunter/gatherer side keeps wondering if these are an edible variety. My husband then looks at me suspiciously and inspects his food with great care.

    • Art Frost Says:

      Many grasshopper species are hosts to parasitic nematodes; humans eating them isn’t a good idea.

      • Heteromeles Says:

        Good idea to cook them very thoroughly, I suspect.

      • janelindskold Says:

        Don’t worry… I was being silly (mostly). I’d check carefully. After all, not all snails are edible… And mushrooms…

        And even “friendly” foods like potatoes can be bad for you if prepared incorrectly.

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