Montreal

'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.

Grasshoppers layering roads, wiping out gardens, and occupying porches. This is something the people of Saint-Élie-de-Caxton had never seen, until last month. Guest host Kim Garritty speaks to Le Nouvelliste's Sébastien Houle about how the community is dealing with the situation. 7:04

With files from Quebec AM

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now