Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

‘Tons of grasshoppers’ land at bar, businesses

‘Ground was just black,’ pest control firm manager says, recalling similar 1997 swarms

This hopper was involved in the '97 invasion.

This hopper was involved in the '97 invasion.

The Chicago Bar on East Speedway may occasionally serve a grasshopper or two.

But no way was the bar ready for the grasshopper swarm that touched down early Wednesday.

“There were lots – hundreds of them,” said Bobby Soto, 28, who witnessed the 1 a.m. spectacle while hanging out with friends. “They were going all crazy. It was very odd, very peculiar.”

Hours later, an even larger swarm was spotted in the area of East 22nd Street and Kolb Road.

“It was like a biblical plague,” said Bill Lamer, who was riding his bicycle in the area at the time. “The ground was just black. I’ve never seen something that bad.”

And Lamer’s seen a lot. He’s the commercial branch manager for Truly Nolen, a pest control firm, at 3620 E. Speedway.

“This year it’s the grasshoppers’ turn,” he said. “Every year it’s something different.”

He said insects go through cycles, with conditions favoring a certain species each year.

Last year, it was the milkweed bug. A few years back, it was the giant armored beetles some call “sewer roaches.”

He said the last time grasshoppers had their heyday was about 10 years ago.

A Tucson Citizen story reporting thousands touching down in July 1997 backs up his recollection.

“Any general pesticide will kill them,” Lamer said, “but because they are in such large numbers, it’s not going to make much of a difference.”

He advised making sure doors and windows are sealed around their perimeters.

“The grasshoppers won’t harm anyone. They are just a nuisance. It’s not like we have crops in the middle of Tucson,” he said.

Anyone with a vegetable garden or ornamental plants may want to contact a nursery on how to protect them, he added.

A few got into Chicago Bar – and were killed by customers – but the rest stuck around the parking lot long enough to be witnessed by Jeff Driskill, 37.

He was arriving at his adjacent shop, Roy Metcaffe Automotive, at 7:45 a.m.

“They were all over the parking lot,” he said. “It wasn’t like a carpet, but I thought it was pretty weird.”

The grasshoppers also descended on an area about two miles southwest of the bar, at Ace Hardware on East Broadway and North Swan Road.

“The whole wall out back was covered with them,” said Ace manager Bobby Bilinsky, 28. “Maybe they were aliens.”

Bobby Soto, 28, re-enacts how he and others fended off a swarm of grasshoppers Wednesday morning at the Chicago Bar.

Bobby Soto, 28, re-enacts how he and others fended off a swarm of grasshoppers Wednesday morning at the Chicago Bar.

Citizen Online Archive, 2006-2009

This archive contains all the stories that appeared on the Tucson Citizen's website from mid-2006 to June 1, 2009.

In 2010, a power surge fried a server that contained all of videos linked to dozens of stories in this archive. Also, a server that contained all of the databases for dozens of stories was accidentally erased, so all of those links are broken as well. However, all of the text and photos that accompanied some stories have been preserved.

For all of the stories that were archived by the Tucson Citizen newspaper's library in a digital archive between 1993 and 2009, go to Morgue Part 2

Search site | Terms of service