According to medieval legend and folklore, the region of Trento Italy played host to a curious swarm of large locust-like insects around the years 591 and 592. Much to the surprise of the locals, this particular infestation of hungry bugs turned out to be far less destructive to the local farmland than was usual. As the story goes, the locusts were considerate guests—or picky eaters—and they curiously avoided the produce of cultivated land in favor of wild seeds and grasses in uninhabited lands. The tale of these odd insects was recorded by Paul the Deacon (c. 720-799), who, in his History of the Lombards, wrote, “There came also in the territory of Tridentum [Trento] a great quantity of locusts which were larger than other locusts, and, wonderful to relate, fed upon grasses and marsh seeds, but hardly touched the crops of the fields. And they appeared also in like manner the following year” (Book IV, chapter 2). These ‘wonderful’ locusts of legend apparently did not return to Trento for a third year.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Swarm of Locusts, by Jan Luyken (1649-1712), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the Rijksmuseum).
- History of the Lombards by Paul the Deacon, translated by William Dudley Foulke (c. 1904). University of Pennsylvania Press, 1907, 1974, 2003.