The public talk was held on Thursday December 15th, 2011 at the Uganda Museum to discuss the topic “The Natural history of the grasshopper and its lucrative trade in Uganda”.
The Grasshopper, commonly referred to as 'Nseenene' in Luganda is a short-horned bush cricket or katydid of the suborder Caelifera in the order Orthoptera. The coloring of different species of grasshoppers is often dependent on the environment with many species adapted to green fields and forests to avoid predators. Others have adapted to drier, sandy environments and blend in well with the colors of dry dirt and sand. In certain countries, grasshoppers are eaten as a good source of protein and in Mexico for example, they are regarded as a good source of protein, minerals and vitamins. They are usually collected at dusk, using lamps or electric lighting, in sweep nets. They are usually placed in water for 24 hours, after which they can be boiled or eaten raw, sun-dried, fried, flavoured with spices, drenched in lime, and used in soup or as a filling for various dishes.
In central Uganda, it is a delicacy as well as an important source of income. This insect is also eaten in neighboring areas of Kenya and Tanzania. However, little information is in people’s domain about their origin, breeding and migration patterns. Prof William Banage studied the natural history of these insects and Mr. John Loannis Gatsiounis has been following the trade patterns and shared this information at the public talk.
Prof William Banage informed us that the grasshopper lies in the class of Insephera (long horned) which also includes crickets. He mentioned that grasshoppers (Nsenene) occur in six color morphs, the most dominant being Green. The different color forms are for protection. The green ones mimic the green vegetation, brown - dry vegetation and purple - dying grass Green is the most dominant color of females and most of the brown ones are male. Other colors include green with purple head, green wih brown head, brown with green head and the most rare color is purple. This is Ecological morphism. These insects are norcturnal and breed in generalised areas. They inhabit in Central and West Africa - Zambia and are wide spread in intertropical areas.
We see the Nsenene during their breeding season these seasons being the rainy seasons, that is March - April and October - December. During this season, males are often seen chasing females, mating on traffic lights. They fly and land before day break.
Harvesting of these insects started in Masaka but it is now in Tooro, Bunyoro, Kampala by using electric lights and many other areas. There is however, no information about where these insects breed. Perhaps researchers will pick interest in this subject matter and avail us with the information.
We thank all those who attended the public talk and look forward to seeing you again for our next public talk and other events.