Woman Forms Incredible Bond With Tiny, Injured Grasshopper
"I put my hand down and it crawled right on."
In September, Chelsea Euliano was strolling through the park in Oceanside, New York, with her sister and dog when she heard something that would change her life. It was a loud, constant chirping sound. When Euliano looked around, she found a tiny grasshopper standing on the ground.
Euliano could immediately see the grasshopper was injured. “It was missing a hind leg,” she told The Dodo. “And I thought, ‘This poor thing, it can’t jump. It’s just dragging its body.’”
Initially, Euliano wasn’t sure what to do. She’d rescued many animals in the past, including swans, ducks, opossums, cats and dogs — but never an insect. She wasn’t even sure if she wanted to touch the grasshopper.
But something about the creature’s persistent chirping made her bend down and hold out her hand.
“I thought, ‘If I put my hand down on the floor and it crawls onto my hand, I’ll have to take it and save it,’” Euliano said. “And what do you know? I put my hand down and it crawled right on.”
Euliano spotted a Dunkin’ Donuts cup lying on the ground, so she grabbed it and eased the grasshopper inside for safekeeping. Then she took the grasshopper home.
While Euliano was eager to help the grasshopper, now named Duncina, she didn’t know how. So she got in touch with an entomologist and asked for advice.
“They said, ‘Usually they die. Their life span is from May to September. She’s basically going to pass any day, but you can try [to help her] if you want,’” Euliano said. “I said, ‘I think she’s going to live longer, and I think I can take good care of her.’”
Euliano got a glass aquarium, which she filled with dirt, branches, hay and alfalfa. She also made sure Duncina got healthy food, including clovers, corn, fennel leaves, pineapples, apples, bananas and even Cheerios.
“I’d hold up a Cheerio or a piece of corn, and she’d literally eat out of my hand,” Euliano said.
Euliano would also hold Duncina every day.
“She’d literally look like she was smiling,” Euliano said. “She was the cutest little thing. I ended up calling her Duncina Bambina or my little Raisinette because her head looked tiny and wrinkly like a little raisin.”
Even Euliano’s mom became attached to Duncina.
“At first, my mom was like, ‘I can’t believe you have a pet bug,’” Euliano said. “But before you knew it, she’d go to the supermarket and come back and say, ‘I’ve got fennel for her.’”
When Duncina laid eggs inside the terrarium, Euliano knew she had to help her grasshopper friend with this, too.
“It was like 'Charlotte’s Web,'” Euliano said. “I thought, ‘I have to take care of these eggs.’ So I took the eggs outside, and my father helped me plant them.”
When the weather was warm enough, Euliano would take Duncina outside to enjoy the fresh air — and the grasshopper laid even more eggs and buried them herself.
“They usually lay eggs, and that’s the end of their life span,” Euliano said. “The eggs will actually freeze over in the winter.”
But Duncina didn’t immediately pass away. She lasted through September, October and most of November. But on November 17, it all came to an end.
“I had a wedding to go to that day, but I woke up and fed her,” Euliano said. “I was getting ready, and I would always look back at her little tank. She was on the branch … but I just knew when I saw her that she was gone.”
Euliano was very upset — more upset than she ever thought she’d get over an insect.
“I said, ‘OK, I can’t cry right now. I have to just go with the day,’” Euliano said. “I feel like she passed on a day when she knew I couldn’t get that upset about it, which is crazy.”
Duncina may be gone now, but her legacy has lived on. Not only did she change Euliano’s mind about insects, but she’s been changing other people’s minds as well.
“A lot of people don’t like bugs, so they step on bugs, and ... they’re afraid of them,” Euliano said. “But once they saw me on Facebook with Duncina, they said, ‘You really changed my mind about bugs. I can’t believe how cute she is.’”
Duncina even inspired Euliano’s cousin to rescue a grasshopper of her own. “My cousin had a grasshopper stuck on her windshield, and she actually [rescued and] released it on an apple orchard,” Euliano said.
Euliano is also looking forward to spring, when Duncina’s eggs are expected to hatch.
“In May, they’re supposed to hatch,” Euliano said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever see the babies, if I’ll ever see them in the garden. But I’m hoping.”