When we think of grasshoppers, most people are hit with the nostalgia of their childhood, chasing around grasshoppers in their backyard or garden, trying to catch them with their friends, siblings, or all by themselves. While grasshoppers are associated with pleasant memories of childhood, it is strange that people know so little about this common insect.
Starting with their physical attributes, grasshoppers display green, brown, or black bodies. Generally, they possess large hind legs and two wing sets, with hind-wings being large, and their forewings long and slim. As compared to their head, grasshoppers’ eyes are quite big with short antennae that help them sense objects around them. Their eyes are usually colored, having a combination of grey, green, and brown.
Grasshoppers range from a medium to large size; adult grasshoppers being 1- 7 cm in length. Some male species of grasshoppers have bright-hued wings which help attract their female counterparts. Their bright color also keeps predators away as it signals that they may taste foul.
Typically, female grasshoppers are larger in size than their male counterparts. They also have a pointy end at their abdomen that helps them lay eggs underground. Male grasshoppers also have the one-of-a-kind wings which they rub their hind legs with and produce sounds. Known for their jumpy flight, grasshoppers are known for leaping 20 times the size of their body. Apart from hopping and jumping, grasshoppers fly as well, having the ability to fly 8 miles per hour.
Grasshoppers are the kind of insects that are found in warmer regions. They can’t bear the cold weather and, therefore, are hard to be seen in North and South poles. The majority of the grasshoppers feed on plants – flowers, leaves, seeds, and stems. However, not all grasshoppers are the same, and that is why some of them are quite picky eaters and first have sample foods before actually eating them. This shows that different grasshoppers have different characteristics, which is why we have composed this blog post. In this post, we’ll discuss different types of grasshoppers that will help you discover the unique characteristics of each type.
Table of Contents
Main Types of Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers are divided into two groups according to the length of their antennae:
- Long-horned grasshoppers
- Short-horned grasshoppers
Formerly known as bush cricket, long-horned grasshoppers belong to the family “Tettigoniidae” and order “Orthoptera”. This type of grasshopper consists of approximately 6,000 species of insects and is identified through their long horns. These species possess slender antennae that can be camouflaged easily according to different circumstances. The antennae become active during the night and tend to create noise.
Almost all the members of this family are green in color, possess long wings, and prefer trees, shrubs, and bushes as their habitat. What sets these grasshoppers apart from others is their tympanum – a hearing organ – situated on their front legs. Studies show that their antennae are hairy and are as long as the overall length of their body.
When it comes to the females, they feature a pointed ovipositor (that helps them in laying eggs) and long wings in a different shape. On the other hand, the male species of this family are known for producing a song by rubbing their wings together. This activity helps them attract their female counterparts.
An interesting fact is that all the species have their own exclusive song. Long-horned grasshoppers come out in the open during warm seasons. In winters, they remain in their egg stage.
Often referred to as long-horned grasshopper or bush cricket, Katydid is known for their huge hind legs, extremely long antennae, and a thick, curvy ovipositor.
Scientifically known as Pterophylla camelifolia, Katydids sing a song “katy-did, katy didn’t” for which these creatures are named after. While this is a common song often heard from katydids, each of these species has their own unique song that they produce through stridulation and rub their wings at the same time. The most common instances where you will hear katydids sing is when they are reproducing or are in a defensive mode for protecting their territory.
Katydids possess body length, ranging from 1 cm to 6 cm. However, the exception to this physical attribute is the matriarchal katydid (saga pedo) that can grow up to the 12 cm in length. While katydids display a bright green hue; some of these species are in pink and yellow as well. These bush crickets also happen to be poor flyers, some of them lacking wings entirely.
2. Meadow Grasshopper
Also belonging to the family Tettigoniidae and subfamily Conocephalinae, meadow grasshoppers are small to medium in size and are typically found near water bodies (streams, ponds, and lakes), ill-maintained meadows, and pastures. In addition to being small, they have a slender body as well which makes them light insects. These creatures love to be in the water near underwater plants and remain there for several minutes.
Meadow grasshoppers develop into many stages; initially, they are wingless nymphs (from April to May) and then they turn into winged adults in June. As they grow older, they shed off their exoskeletons and prefer to feed on plants and grass, especially that of the underwater.
Unlike Katydid, meadow grasshoppers make an “rrrr” sound during mating with their female counterparts. Katydids are usually seen in green color but they also appear in brown or purplish grey hues. These grasshoppers also exhibit grayish brown stripes around their eyes.
3. Cone-Headed Grasshoppers
As suggested by the name, cone-headed grasshoppers have a pointy cone-shaped head. They are identified by their light green or brown slender bodies which is 4 cm in length. If you try to capture them, they can bite with their strong jaws. These types of species prefer to live in grasslands or weeds.
Like other types of long-headed grasshoppers, cone-headed grasshoppers also have a specific song. Their song is comprised of only one note which is repeated over and over again to produce a melody. For example, a North American cone-headed grasshopper – N. robustus – creates a constant buzzing sound along with droning noise through their wings.
These species are typically found in warmer regions of southern and central Europe. Their two subfamilies are as follows:
- Acrida ungarica ungarica
- Acrida ungarica mediterranea
4. Shield-Back Katydid
Shield-back katydid is the type of insect that largely bears resemblance with crickets. Most of these insects are 18 to 50 mm in length and in colors like black or brown. That being said, a few of them come in green shade as well. Generally, shield-back katydids possess short wings or no wings at all and therefore are unable to fly. One such example of shield-back katydids is the Mormon cricket – they happen to be flightless due to their wingless nature.
These species are found in western North America as they are seen in their open country, forests, and farmlands. The ideal season for shield-back katydids are summer and early fall; as the winter arises, these grasshoppers go into hiding. Shield-back katydids feed on other insects (both dead and alive) and plants.
These species go through a complete metamorphosis which means that as they hatch from their eggs they are smaller in size, without wings, and sexual parts but as they mature and enter into the adult stage, their wings and sexual organs begin to develop as well.
Belonging to the family Acrididae and insect order Orthoptera, short-horned grasshoppers have short but heavy antennae. The females possess a four-valved ovipositor to help lay an egg and three-segmented tarsi. These species are herbivorous in nature and therefore have the most vicious pests ever known to mankind.
Short-horned grasshoppers typically range from 5mm to 11 cm in size. Their green or straw-hued bodies are either long or short. Owing to their body color, it is easy for these insects to camouflage to their surroundings. These grasshoppers also have long hind legs and femurs that help them jump to long distances. Note that not all of these species come with wings; some of them lack wings and therefore are flightless in nature. The winged male species possess the ability to make noises through the rubbing of their front wings. On the other hand, the most notable characteristic of female short-horned grasshoppers is that they can lay up to 100 eggs in the soil. Following are the types of short-horned grasshoppers that you must know about.
1. Spur-Throated Grasshoppers
These are the most popular species of grasshoppers in North America. They come in a wide range of colors including brown, red, green, yellow, and orange. Some species exhibit a bright range of hues with small spots all over their body and small and slender antennae on the top of their head. The females lay as many as 20 eggs in the soil and sit over them throughout the winter season. The nymphs mature in the early summer and remain in the out in the Southern states.
Generally, spur-throated grasshoppers are seen in open fields and meadows, flying from one place to another. These species can easily cross their boundary as they may fly as far as southern Canada and the United States. These destructive species come in many types, some of them are mentioned below:
This type of species is well-known in the southeastern USA due to its large size and attractive body hues. One state where lubber grasshoppers are found in abundance is Florida where they are notorious for destroying vegetable crops.
Unlike other types of grasshoppers, lubber grasshoppers are slow and clumsy. They prefer crawling or walking over flying. Owing to this attribute, they are aptly named “lubber” as the word is derived from Lubber” which means lazy in old English.
Eastern lubber grasshoppers can be as long as 5 to 7 cm and may consist of red wings with black borders. On the other hand, the western lubber grasshopper, also known as the buffalo grasshopper, can be smaller in size with pink wings.
Belonging to the family Acrididae and order Orthoptera, locusts can be found worldwide. These species can be seen in great numbers as they move in swarms to faraway lands in hope of causing destruction.
Locusts are solitary in nature but certain changes in their mood and habits can make them gregarious. These species begin to breed heavily and grow in dramatic numbers. Wingless nymphs mature and then become swarms of winged creatures. The adult species rush toward the vegetation growth and aim to destroy them instantly. These are one of the fastest flying grasshoppers, having the ability to cover long distances. Moreover, locusts like to feed on green vegetations wherever they settle.
Commonly found in North America, migratory grasshoppers have a wide range of habitats, including grasslands and meadows. Depending on their type, migratory grasshoppers are either herbivorous or a forbivorous. These creatures are a serious threat to crops as well as to grasslands as they have caused and can further cause destruction to the vegetation in the United States.
As the name implies, migratory grasshoppers disperse and migrate to different parts of the land. Research shows that the reason these grasshoppers migrate is inherent and they tend to move on a regular basis.
2. Slant-Faced Grasshoppers
The slant-faced grasshoppers hail from the subfamily Acridinae and are distinguished by their slanted face and hind wings. These species are seen around wet meadows and marshes. However, they are always found in small numbers and therefore cause little to no damage to plantations and vegetations.
Most of these species prefer grasses (poaceae) or plants as their ultimate food. That being said, this is a large subfamily, consisting of many species with varying food preferences. Therefore, their types of food also vary.
3. Band-Winged Grasshoppers
A part of the subfamily – Oedipodinae, band-winged grasshoppers display colorful hindwings of hues like red, yellow, and black. These species are the only kind of short-horned grasshoppers that have the ability to produce sounds. It is believed that these species create a crackling noise when they fly. However, when they are not flying, these insects cover their colorful hind wings with their forewings. This helps to blend them into their surroundings. When these insects feel threatened, they jump out and expose their bold wings. Due to their beautiful wings, many predators mistake band-winged grasshoppers for butterflies.
One of the most common band-winged species includes the Carolina grasshopper that consists of black hind wings. Another common type of band-winged grasshoppers is the clear-winged grasshopper – the most common pesticide in North America.
Another Type of Grasshoppers
Also known as grouse locusts, pygmy grasshoppers are small in size and appear in colors like brown, green, or gray. These species either have small-sized forewings or none at all. They also lack sound-producing or hearing organs, which is what makes them distinctive from long-horned and short-horned species. These species are commonly found in grassy fields and muddy shores.
Grasshoppers are active species that stay up during the nighttime as well. At night, they are usually busy feeding. When grasshoppers are caught, they may spit which is known as “tobacco juice”. Scientists believe that this juice helps them protect against their enemies.
Grasshoppers are commonly threatened by different types of flies that lay their eggs near grasshoppers’ eggs. Sometimes, some flies lay their eggs on top of a grasshopper’s body during their flight. The nymph may consume the grasshopper as a result. Besides flies, some common predators of grasshoppers include birds, mice, snakes, beetles, and spiders. With over 11,000 species of grasshoppers in the world, these flight insects are very old creatures, probably 200 million years old! Fascinating, right?