Natural adventures with family: “grasshoppering”
UF/IFAS Extension Sarasota County
As our community is isolating at home, it is becoming ever more clear how important it is to spend time outside. In my family, we have been grateful for the thousands of acres of natural areas that have been protected through the county’s Environmentally Sensitive Lands Protection Program, as well as other public land funding sources. We have tried to visit a new preserve (or two) every weekend. Most have wide open trails and very few people, perfect for social distancing from others, while connecting as a family.Those with younger kids will know that they sometimes need more than a hike to get them enthusiastic about what their parents want them to do. Lately, with our two boys, “grasshoppering” has been what excites them about these visits to our local natural areas. It has been such a treat to watch them explore Red Bug Slough Preserve, Jelks Preserve, Sleeping Turtles Preserve North, Old Miakka Preserve, and more with their heads down and nets up as they looked for grasshoppers, butterflies, and whatever other creatures they came upon. My 10-year-old son, Evan, wrote up some tips on this latest hobby in case other youth would be interested in joining the fun (see below).
- You can learn about the grasshopper my kids have found most easily recently, the Lubber, from Carol Wyatt-Evens’ post “March of the Giant Grasshoppers: The Eastern Lubber“.
- You can also find a summary of the health benefits of time in nature in Dr. Katherine Clements’ blog “The Necessity of Nature” from last fall.
Tips and Tricks for Grasshoppering
I enjoy learning and looking for insects because they are very unique, different from any other creature on this planet in such a startling way that it impresses me every time I see them. I enjoy catching grasshoppers because it gives you a closer look at the grasshopper. You get to note its features and how it is different from others. You may also catch very big grasshoppers, which is also a very enjoyable experience. In this fun activity, kids can explore and enjoy nature, maybe even in their backyard.So, first let’s start with a definition. We call it “grasshoppering” when you catch grasshoppers and other insects. All you need is a net, a sharp eye, and a place to keep the insects. (Not a jar, but something they can breathe in and you can see through. This is catch and release, after all.)
Grasshoppers don’t live everywhere, so you need to know where to look. They live in saw palmetto flats, but you wouldn’t want to go through there! Instead, look in sunny fields near the flats. If you still can’t find any, it’s okay. They are very skilled in camouflage. Instead, try to make one jump. If you see it land, mark its position and bring your net down on that spot. If it didn’t move, you should have successfully made a catch!Once you catch your grasshopper (or beetle, butterfly, moth, etc.), you may have a hard time getting it into your container. There is no exact method of doing this, but I’ve found a way that usually works. With your net on the ground, very gently pinch the grasshopper between the netting with one hand, and with the other hand pick up the net and position your hand with the grasshopper directly over the container, then open the container and quickly put the grasshopper inside. Then close the lid. This works with beetles too.
You should not put butterflies and moths in the container. They could hurt their wings trying to get out, so just observe them from within the net, then let them free. You may put up to three grasshoppers in your container at once. Any more than that and it gets too cramped.
In case you’re having trouble, here’s a checklist that might help you. Did you:
- Go out on a hot, dry day?
- Find a field near some saw palmetto?
- Bring a good net that isn’t ripped?
- Bring a good container?
If you’ve done all these things and you’re still having trouble, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what to do.
Good luck! And good hunting!