Great gripping grasshoppers, Batman!
One of the things we love best of all about New Caledonia is how close to nature we can get. From snorkeling to hiking, to sitting under a tree or enjoying a waterfall, we feel spoiled. Even more fun is the number of endemic species (or species you can find only here) we can find and see. One of our favourite spots for seeing these species up close is the Parc Forestier, where we can see flying foxes, kagus, Caledonian crows and New Caledonian imperial pigeons (the largest tree-dwelling pigeons in the world). We visit the park regularly and can’t get enough of it. It is huge and canopy covered, complete with a dry forest and man-made lakes and marshes, full of turtles and herons, geese and ducks.
Today, on another visit, we had, however, the fright of our lives. Okay, I jumped out of my skin and hollered like someone had just charged me with a knife. Our near 7-year-old also shouted so loudly and forcefully at the scary thing that it stopped in its tracks, frozen on the spot.
Turns out it was but a female Giant Coconut Grasshopper, New Caledonia’s largest insect.
We’d been sitting calmly, staring up at the coconut trees, trying to figure out what the whitish, whispery parts of the tree were. We noticed bees and small birds flying in and out among the wispy bits. We decided that they must be feeding on parts of the tree. It had been a long day and we were gathering our energy for the long walk back to the car.
We all looked right in front of us. I screamed. Pablo screamed. My husband laughed. And the world stopped.
I’ve had to get used to roaches in my coffee, roaches in my bed (okay, only one, but that was one too many), ants in the bathroom and voracious, venomous centipedes (scolopendra) at our son’s school. I had not yet adjusted to flying grasshoppers the size of my hand.
Fascinated (as is my husband’s wont), our son’s father took the phone and started shooting “action shots” while I recovered my breath and smiled politely at the approaching crowd.
I’ve since looked into our flying friend and found that indeed she was a female (as she was green
and males are brown – I’d forgotten we’d already seen a male months before at a fancy hotel in Nouméa). They can reach up to 20 centimeters and feed on coconut leaves. They are not poisonous or dangerous or germ-ridden. They are unique to New Caledonia and are among the largest grasshoppers in the world.
So we should consider ourselves lucky to have observed one of New Caledonia’s endemic insects in the wild, at our very feet.
Hmmm. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that THWACK …