'Like popping popcorn': Grasshoppers swarm town in Quebec's Mauricie region

Swarms of insects in the thousands have been covering outdoor furniture, ravaging gardens, perching above door and window frames, and coating the roads. 

Entomologist says the mild winter and hot spring are to blame

Swarms of grasshoppers have made it impossible for some residents in Saint-Élie-de-Caxton to enjoy the outdoors this summer. (Submitted by Marlyne Muise)

Thousands of grasshoppers have been blanketing the small town of Saint-Élie-de-Caxton, Que., all summer. 

Swarms of the insects have been covering outdoor furniture, ravaging gardens, perching above door and window frames and coating the roads in the community just outside Shawinigan in Quebec's Mauricie region.

Resident Marlyne Muise said after a long winter stuck inside, she was hoping to take advantage of her backyard this summer. But for more than two months, her yard has been held hostage by a large group of grasshoppers. 

She said the insects ate her entire garden and destroyed her flowers, and left gaping holes in the net surrounding her gazebo.

"It was discouraging," said Muise, who added she'd put lots of time and money into a garden she hasn't been able to enjoy. 

She said she was also bounced around different government ministries trying to figure out what to do and who was responsible for the invasion. 

Thousands of grasshoppers have been blanketing homes and roads while also decimating gardens. (Submitted by Marlyne Muise)

"Well you would think it's one of the 10 plagues of Egypt," said Sébastien Houle, who lives nearby and witnessed the grasshopper swarm this summer. 

Houle, a journalist at the regional newspaper Le Nouvelliste, said the insects were more concentrated on a couple streets when they first took over the town, but since they grew wings they've scattered. 

"We've got quite a bit of them, but it's not as concentrated or as impressive as it was at first," he said. 

Houle first discovered the grasshoppers when residents started posting photos and videos online, so he went to see for himself. 

"You walk out of your car, or you have to jump into your car, then you walk on the ground and it's like popping popcorn," he said.

"They just appeared overnight."

Entomologist Étienne Normandin said it’s the largest grasshopper infestation he's seen in his 15-year career. (Submitted by Marilyne Muise)

Entomologist Étienne Normandin said it's the largest invasion he's seen in his 15-year career, but he noted a swarm of thousands of insects was bound to happen with this year's weather. 

Normandin explained that the mild winter and hot spring created the perfect conditions for the bugs to thrive.

The researcher, who's working on a list of Quebec and Canada's edible insects at the Université de Montreal, collected about 2.2 kilograms of grasshoppers in a five-hour period in Saint-Élie-de-Caxton. 

Normandin found four different species of grasshopper in the town, all of which are indigenous to Quebec. 

He says grasshoppers are a cyclical species, which means Muise and her neighbours likely will be stuck with the bugs for a while.

With files from Quebec AM


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