by Stephen J. Gertz
|From: Nachricht von den nach Bontzhida in Siebenbürgen gekommenen Zugheuschrecken.|
"Listen to them, the cicadas of the night. What music they make."
On August 23, 1780, a dense cloud of locusts the size of Transylvania (the cloud, not the locusts) descended upon Dracula's homeland to suck the sap out of everything that grew upon the earth and utterly destroy all crops.
The populace went into a panic. Driving a stake through the heart of each and every one of the monstrously hungry insects was impractical - not enough toothpicks in Transylvania; spraying garlic juice as an insecticide was malodorous in the extreme and without marinara sauce, why bother?; and daylight didn't put a dent in their activity.
What to do?
According to Johann Roskoschnik, who, 1782, chronicled the very real terror, the most effective method to rid Transylvania of the black-veined, green-blooded, night-flying Gryllus migratorius, apparently, was for farmers to dig broad holes deep enough to prevent the bugs from leaping out. Groups of them (farmers, not locusts), armed with brooms, then encircled the soulless demon pests, drove them into the pits, and set the horde afire and on its way to Hell.
According to Horn & Schenkling's Index Litteraturae Entomologicae, this account was originally published in Ungarische Magazin 2, (1782), pp. 389-399. I missed that issue. I suspect that you did, too.
ROSKOSCHNIK, Johann. Nachricht von den nach Bontzhida in Siebenbürgen gekommenen Zugheuschrecken, ihrem Aufenthalte daselbst, und ihrer Ausrottung; nebst einigen die Naturgeschichte derselben betreffenden Bemerkungen. Pressburg: Anton Löwe, 1782. First separate edition. Octavo. 14,  pp. Folding engraved plate with grasshoppers. Blue paper wrappers.
Hagen II, p. 93; Horn & Schenkling 18487.
Image courtesy of Asher Rare Books, with our thanks.