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Iowa History Daily: July 27 - Great Grasshopper Swarm of 1931

Iowa History Daily: On July 27, 1931, massive hordes of grasshoppers swarmed across Iowa devastating millions of acres of crops. Reports indicated the insects arrived in such numbers as to block out the sun, and the hungry swarms munched cornstalks clean to the ground leaving many fields completely bare.

As farmers already suffered the ravages of the ongoing Great Depression and weather failed to cooperate with drought conditions present throughout the state during the two years leading up to 1931. “Added to the woes of farmers in the state come stories of the great grasshopper invasion along the western border, bringing pictures of destruction caused by the ravenous insects…” reported the Cedar Rapids Gazette and Republican on August 3, 1931.

The insects, aided in flourishing by the dry conditions, ate almost everything in their path. “They covered the ground, fences and buildings, eating everything and in many places eating the bark from young growth of apple, pear, cherry, and other trees.” Many people believed salt drew the insects, leading the swarms to occasionally eat the sweat-soaked shirt off a person’s back.

Calls for war against the pests and cries for federal aid echoed as the hordes of grasshoppers started across the Missouri River in late July of 1931. President (and one-time Iowan) Herbert Hoover responded by allotting $15 million in federal aid for relief related to the ‘western grasshopper invasions’ and drought in the Dakotas, Nebraska, and Iowa.

Many farmers used the money to purchase feed for livestock, however, the combined pressure of the Depression, drought, and devastating hordes of grasshoppers ended the agricultural careers of many. #IowaHistoryDaily #IowaOTD #IowaHistoryCalendar


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