Grasshoppers are ground-dwelling insects that have powerful hind legs, allowing them to escape from threats by jumping over long distances. Some grasshoppers change color and behavior, forming swarms at high population densities, and become locusts under certain environmental conditions.
They have a long relationship with humans. As these insects are herbivorous, they become severe pests of foodstuffs like cereals and vegetables, destroying crops over broad areas. Swarms of locusts have devastating effects and cause famine, doing so since Biblical times.
List of the Common Types of Grasshopper Species
Over 11,000 species of grasshoppers exist worldwide. However, there may be more unknown species yet to be discovered. These are some of the commonly recognized ones:
Central Valley Grasshopper
Common Green Grasshopper
Eastern Lubber Grasshopper
Gray Bird Grasshopper
Australian Plague Locust
Common Field Grasshopper
New Zealand Grasshopper
Large Marsh Grasshopper
Physical Description and Appearance
Size: Length: 2-4 inches (5-10 cm)
Body and Coloration: Grasshoppers have a typical insect body plan consisting of a head, a thorax, and an abdomen. The head has two compound eyes for broad vision, three simple eyes to detect light and dark, thread-like antennae to sense touch and smell, and a mouth at the bottom made for chewing.
The thorax and abdomen are divided into three and eleven segments, respectively. Their cuticle is rigid and made up of chitin. The thoracic segments have three pairs of legs, with claws for gripping and two pairs of wings, the forewings being narrow and leathery while the hindwings are large and membranous.
The abdomen contains the tympanal organ and hearing system. In females, the last two segments have reproductive organs leading to females being generally bigger than the males.
These insects range in color from green to olive or brown, with yellow or red markings.
Range and Distribution
They are found globally, with more diverse species found in tropical parts of the world. For instance, lubber grasshoppers inhabit the Americas, while those belonging to the Lentulidae and Lathiceridae reside in Africa.
Where do they live
These insects populate nearly all terrestrial habitats, such as deserts, grasslands, mountains, savannahs, tropical forests, and even aquatic ones.
How long do they live
On average, a grasshopper lives for a year.
What do they eat
Herbivorous in nature, these insects feed on grass, flowers, stems, but prefer green leaves. Some of them have been noted to eat feces and dead animals during periods of scarcity.
While most species are solitary, some migratory ones end up forming groups of a million, or even a billion, individuals. When they group up like this, they are called locusts. As a result of this overcrowding, they change color, consume higher quantities of food, and mate more frequently.
They are diurnal but have also been noted to feed at night.
Nomadic by nature, they will migrate over vast territories in search of new food sources.
Larger species can jump long distances to escape predators or launch themselves into flight.
Grasshoppers generate sounds by rubbing their hind legs against their wings through a method called stridulation. This is done mainly by males to attract a male, though females have been heard stridulating as well.
What eats them
Every stage in a grasshopper’s life is fraught with peril from predators. Beetles and parasitoids like blowflies attack the eggs, while insects like ants and robber flies, spiders, and several species of birds and mammals feed on hoppers and adults.
They are able to jump long distances for locomotion due to having powerful hind legs.
To avoid predators, several grasshoppers have developed various anti-predator measures. For example, the leaf grasshopper camouflages itself as a leaf, while the painted grasshopper sports a warning coloration indicating its distastefulness.
Their lower mandibles have a sharp edge allowing them to cut grass and leaves easily for consumption.
Grasshoppers release a brown liquid called “tobacco juice” when they are picked up to escape any situation.
How do they reproduce
Male and female grasshoppers mate at the start of fall. To attract a mate, males begin to stridulate, alternating between a courtship song and a tune to ward off potential rivals. Males then fertilize the females, laying the eggs in a suitable location in the soft earth.
After some weeks, the eggs of most grasshoppers go into diapause and overwinter in this stage. Growth resumes as soon as the ground warms above a specific threshold temperature. The embryos in a pod generally all hatch out within a few minutes of each other. They soon shed their membranes, and their exoskeletons harden. Grasshoppers repeatedly molt, with each instar becoming larger and more like an adult, with the wing-buds increasing in size at each stage. The number of instars varies between species but is often six. After the final molt, the wings are inflated and become fully functional.
As per the IUCN, several species of grasshopper are at risk of extinction due to intensive agriculture, tourists, and wildfires.
Grasshopper – FAQs
1. Do grasshoppers bite?
Generally, they don’t but if they are in swarms or feel threatened, they may do so.
2. Do grasshoppers fly?
Yes, they can fly and are in fact capable of long-distance travel via flight.
3. Are grasshoppers good luck?
Yes, grasshoppers are symbols of good luck throughout the world. If a dead grasshopper shows up on your porch, it is considered extremely unlucky.
4. Are crickets and grasshoppers the same?
While they are in the same order, the two are different species. An easy way to distinguish them comes from their antennae. Crickets have longer antennae, while those of grasshoppers are shorter.
5. Are grasshoppers radially asymmetrical?
No, like other insects, grasshoppers show bilateral symmetry.
6. Do grasshoppers die after they mate?
Males of certain species die shortly after mating, while females die after egg-laying, which may last until the beginning of winter.
Grasshoppers have had a significant role in human culture, appearing in various media such as in the Aesop fable The Ant and the Grasshopper, the 1957 film Beginning of the End, and the 1998 Pixar animated feature A Bug’s Life.
Certain countries like China, Mexico, and Java eat grasshoppers as delicacies.