Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper: Comprehensive Guide for Enthusiasts

The Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper is an elusive insect that is often difficult to spot due to its wary nature. When threatened or approached, it jumps, flies, or quickly hides behind plant stems to escape.

These grasshoppers are found in southeastern regions of the United States, extending south through Mexico to Honduras in Central America.

They have been noted to have at least two generations per year, with adult activity peaking in April and November.

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

These grasshoppers, like others, lay their eggs in a mass in the soil, from which tiny grasshoppers hatch and begin feeding.

In contrast, another grasshopper called the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper, also known as the “Georgia Thumper”, can be recognized by its distinct black coloring with one or more orange, yellow, or red stripes on their legs and body. 

For successful identification and control, understanding the unique characteristics of each grasshopper species is essential.

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper Identification

Physical Characteristics

The Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper, scientifically known as Leptysma marginicollis, belongs to the Order Orthoptera.

It is a slender grasshopper with a unique appearance. These grasshoppers have a body spur between their front legs and possess short wings, making their flight quite limited1.

Their hind legs feature a brown stripe on the upper part and blue on the lower part.

Key features of the Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper include:

  • Slender body
  • Body spur between the front legs
  • Short wings
  • Brown stripe on the upper part of hind legs
  • Blue lower part of hind legs

Coloration

The Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper boasts a distinctive coloration that sets it apart from other grasshopper species.

Its body is light gray, and adult males have a body length of approximately 0.7 inches, while females are slightly larger at 0.8 inches1.

Their heads are rounded and comparatively large in relation to their bodies.

The red eyes of these grasshoppers add an eye-catching contrast to their overall appearance.

Furthermore, their antennae exhibit a variety of colors, ranging from whitish to yellow, pink, and even brownish shades1.

Another grasshopper species, Stenacris vitreipennis, also belongs to the same order and can be distinguished based on its physical characteristics.

Comparison of Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper and Stenacris vitreipennis:

FeatureCattail Toothpick GrasshopperStenacris vitreipennis
Body LengthMale: 0.7 inch, Female: 0.8 inchVaries
ColorationLight gray body, red eyes, multicolored antennaeDifferent shades of green and brown
Physical CharacteristicsSlender body, body spur, short wingsAbsence of body spur, longer wings

Habitat and Distribution

Geographical Range

The Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper is primarily found in the southeastern regions of the United States, extending south through Mexico to Honduras in Central America

Preferred Habitat

This grasshopper species thrives in wet areas, with an affinity towards places with emergent vegetation.

Specifically, they are often found in the vicinity of two key plants:

  • Sedges: These are grass-like plants commonly found in wetlands.
  • Cattails: Tall, robust plants that grow near marshes, ponds, and similar environments.

Examples of where Cattail Toothpick Grasshoppers can be spotted include:

  • Backyards near wetlands
  • Parks with ponds or water features

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Eggs

  • Females lay eggs in soil
  • Multiple generations per year in some areas

The life cycle of the Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper begins with the female laying a mass of eggs in the soil1.

In some areas, they have two generations per year, with adults peaking in April and November1.

Nymphs

  • Hatch from eggs
  • Feed on nearby plant materials

The eggs hatch into tiny grasshopper nymphs1. These nymphs resemble smaller versions of adult grasshoppers, but without wings.

They feed and grow, going through multiple stages (known as instars) before reaching adulthood1.

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Adults

  • Develop wings
  • Males and females mate to produce eggs

Adult Cattail Toothpick Grasshoppers, also known as Slender Locusts, have the fully developed wings that distinguish them from nymphs1.

Males and females mate, with the females laying eggs to begin the next generation1.

CharacteristicEggsNymphsAdults
Time of OccurrenceSoil1Hatched1Developed1
Aphidus Species2+ per yr1Feed on Plants1Wings1

The Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper, also known as the Spur-throat Toothpick Grasshopper or Leptysma marginicollis, is just one of the many species of grasshoppers found in Florida1.

Diet and Feeding

Plant Consumption

The Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper mainly feeds on plants. Although they are named after cattails, these insects consume a variety of vegetation.

They have powerful front legs that enable them to hold onto stems while feeding, similar to katydids and crickets1.

Some examples of plants they consume include:

  • Cattails
  • Grasses
  • Leaves

Impact on the Ecosystem

As both prey and predator, Cattail Toothpick Grasshoppers play an important role in the ecosystem.

They serve as a food source for other animals like birds, reptiles, and larger insects.

Their consumption of plants may also help regulate plant growth, preventing overgrowth in some areas.

Anatomical Features

Wings and Flight

Cattail Toothpick Grasshoppers have two pairs of wings. They are:

  • Forewings: These are narrow, long, and held close to the body. They provide protection for the hindwings.
  • Hindwings: These are broader and provide the main lifting force during flight.

Though flight is not their primary mode of movement, these grasshoppers can fly short distances quickly to escape predators.

File:Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper - Leptysma marginicollis, Occoquan Bay National Wildlife Refuge, Woodbridge, Virginia.jpg
Source: Judy GallagherCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Legs and Movement

The legs of Cattail Toothpick Grasshoppers are designed for jumping, and they have:

  • Front legs: Their first pair of legs are shorter and used for walking and climbing.
  • Hind legs: Remarkably long and powerful, these legs are adapted for jumping, providing an effective escape mechanism.

This grasshopper species mainly prefers jumping over flying as their primary mode of transportation.

Thorax and Pronotum

The thorax, which is the central part of the grasshopper’s body, consists of three sections:

  1. Prothorax: the first and smallest section, connecting the head and thorax.
  2. Mesothorax: the middle section housing the forewings.
  3. Metathorax: the last section containing the hindwings and hind legs.

The pronotum, a saddle-shaped structure, covers the prothorax and is useful in distinguishing species. In Cattail Toothpick Grasshoppers, their pronotum skin may vary from smooth to rough and wrinkled.

These anatomical features play a significant role in the Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper’s daily life, allowing them to jump, fly, and escape predators efficiently.

Classification and Related Species

Family Gomphocerinae

The Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper belongs to the family Gomphocerinae, a group of grasshoppers known for their slender bodies and unique features. Some key characteristics of this family include:

  • Lengthy antennae made up of numerous segments
  • Diverse color patterns and markings
  • Typically found in grassland habitats

In the Gomphocerinae family, there are several genera and species that may share similar features but can be differentiated by their specific characteristics.

File:Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper - Leptysma marginicollis, Meadowood Farm SRMA, Mason Neck, Virginia (39118878682).jpg
Source: Judy GallagherCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Stenacris vitreipennis

One related species to the Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper is Stenacris vitreipennis. Some distinctive features of this species include:

  • Transparent wings
  • Predominantly green or brown body coloration
  • Long and slender shape

Observing Cattail Toothpick Grasshoppers

Tips for Spotting

Cattail Toothpick Grasshoppers are often wary insects. They can either jump or fly readily when approached, or hide behind stems quickly to avoid being seen1. Here are some tips to spot them:

  • Be patient and observant while exploring their natural habitat
  • Look for them near cattails and plants in wetland areas
  • Be prepared to examine grasshoppers hiding behind stems

Seasonal Changes

These grasshoppers have at least two generations per year in North Carolina, with adult populations peaking in April and November1.

Keep in mind the following points related to seasonal changes:

  • Spring and late fall are the best times to observe them in nature
  • During these seasons, you are more likely to encounter active adults

Interaction with Predators

The Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper, like many other insects, faces a myriad of natural predators throughout its life cycle.

These predators play a crucial role in controlling the grasshopper’s population and maintaining ecological balance.

Birds: Many bird species, especially those that frequent wetland areas, feed on grasshoppers. Their keen eyesight allows them to spot even the most camouflaged insects.

Reptiles: Lizards and certain snake species are known to consume grasshoppers. Their stealthy approach often catches the grasshopper off-guard.

Amphibians: Frogs and toads, with their quick, long tongues, can snatch grasshoppers from both the ground and air.

Insects and Arachnids: Larger insects, such as praying mantises and spiders, often prey on grasshoppers. Spiders, in particular, can trap grasshoppers in their webs, rendering them immobile.

Defense Mechanisms

The Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper’s elusive nature is its primary defense mechanism.

Its ability to quickly jump or fly short distances helps it evade many predators.

Additionally, its slender body and coloration allow it to blend seamlessly with its surroundings, especially when hiding behind plant stems.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper, Leptysma marginicollis, is a fascinating and elusive insect, predominantly found in the southeastern United States.

With its distinctive physical characteristics, coloration, and adaptability to wetland habitats, it showcases the diversity within the Orthoptera order.

In this article, we have looked into its life cycle, dietary habits, anatomical features, and classification, providing comprehensive insights.

Footnotes

  1. University of Nebraska-Lincoln 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Texas grasshopper
This grasshopper was photographed on reeds at the edge of a pond in the Coastal prairie of Central Texas, near the town of Refugio. Do you know what it is? Thanks,
Ron

Hi Ron,
We are nearly positive this is a Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper, Leptysma marginicollis, a shown on BugGuide, but it might also be the Glassy Winged Toothpick Grasshopper, Stenacris vitreipennis. Perhaps one of our readers can supply a definitive answer.

Letter 2 – Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Subject: Strange bug.
Location: North East Florida
March 15, 2014 3:43 pm
Saw this strange bug on the hood of my Step Dad’s car. It is about 3 inches long and appears to have only 4 legs. I’ve never seen anything like this before. What on Earth is it?
Signature: Brandon

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper
Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Dear Brandon,
This sure looks like a Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper,
Leptysma marginicollis, to us.  According to BugGuide, it:  “Inhabits wet areas, and is usually found on emergent vegetation such as cattails and sedges.” 

Letter 3 – Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Subject: Another wierd Louisiana bug
Location: South Louisiana
November 23, 2015 11:11 am
Dear bug man,
I found this bug on my porch a few days ago. I was wondering if you would be able to identify what it is? It is a tan color and didn’t really move much even when I took the picture.
Signature: Curious

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper
Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Dear Curious,
The Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper,
Leptysma marginicollis, is a very distinctive species that “Inhabits wet areas, and is usually found on emergent vegetation such as cattails and sedges” according to Bugguide, which leads us to believe you live not far from a marsh or swamp.

Letter 4 – Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Subject:  Conehead
Geographic location of the bug:  Jacksonville,  FL
Date: 10/05/2018
Time: 04:20 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  What is this?
How you want your letter signed:  Dawn L

Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper

Dear Dawn,
Conehead was a good guess, but Coneheads are Katydids and you have submitted an image of a Grasshopper.  Katydids and Grasshoppers have many similarities as they are both classified in the order Orthoptera, but they have decidedly different antennae.  Your Grasshopper is a Cattail Toothpick Grasshopper,

Leptysma marginicollis, which we identified on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “This slender, elongate grasshopper has a very pointed head and flattened, sword-shaped antennae” and “Inhabits wet areas, and is usually found on emergent vegetation such as cattails and sedges.” 

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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