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Roaring Fork Valley Phenology | September 2, 2013

On my way back from Crested Butte this past weekend my gatherer's eyes found a lot of berries to munch on and mushrooms to bring home. I also spotted a few Mormon crickets, Anabrus simplex, which are not high on my gathering list as of yet, though were a valuable food source for many native American people.  

Mormon crickets are not true crickets but rather shieldbacked katydids. In Colorado these creatures tend to be solitary and rarely cause any harm. However they may appear in vast swarms in places like Nevada and Utah. Native people used to herd hundreds or thousands of them in “cricket drives” into pits or baskets. Later, the insects were dried, crushed and pulverized into a fine flour that was stored for use during the long winter. One of my favorite recipes I found involved the cricket flour, gooseberries, and serviceberries.

The name Mormon cricket is derived from an old story from the time when Mormon settlers came to Utah and their first crops were ravaged by swarms of these insects. The story goes that the Mormons were then saved by California gulls that swooped in to eat the crickets, saving the crops at the last moment. 

Berries and mushrooms should still be around for the next two weeks, though serviceberries are beginning to shrivel. No swallows or hummingbirds were seen at Hallam Lake this week. Yellow jackets are quite active, and the cedar waxwings and robins are busy in the berry bushes. Moths and bats are out in great number at dusk. Keep an eye out for rainbows and great sunsets. The rains of late August may help fuel an awesome aspen tree display in two to three weeks.

~ Jim Kravitz, Director of Naturalist Programs