Back in the 1800’s, as people moved into what were then the western territories of Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and Wyoming, they encountered many difficulties in mere survival on the great plains. Droughts and floods were both an issue. And if there was no drought or flood, they might have to deal with a giant swarm of locusts, particularly a species called the Rocky Mountain Locust.
The worst year for locusts was 1875. Although these members of the grasshopper family had certainly lived in the region for centuries, until white settlers started moving west and farming there was no record of them. As farmers began farming more land, locusts became a growing problem though the 1800s.
The “Year of the Locust”, as 1875 was called, actually started in August of 1874. Swarms of locusts attacked like dark black clouds, covering areas the size of California. And these bugs were not just eating grass and crops. They ate leather, wood, sheep’s wool, and sometimes even the clothes from peoples’ backs. One farmer is quoted as saying “They took everything but the mortgage!”.
So, why don’t we hear anything about locusts attacks these days? The answer is that, by 1902 the Rocky Mountain Locust became extinct. What killed them off is unclear, but likely a combination of overt efforts to eradicate them, and just that increased farming plowed up much of the land that had been their nesting habitat.
If you enjoy this kind of history, then you should definitely be taking the Banjo Billy tours. We love an unusual history story, and we do our best to tell them in the most fun way possible. And, we do on the coolest bus in town! YEEEHHHHHAAAAQWWWWW!!!!