Grasshoppers are known for their voracious appetites, consuming a variety of plant materials in their diet. However, when it comes to ants, one might wonder if these insects make up part of a grasshopper’s meal plan.
In general, grasshoppers do not eat ants. Instead, they primarily feed on leaves, stems, and other plant materials, as they are herbivorous insects by nature. While it’s not impossible for a grasshopper to nibble on an ant if they are in close proximity, they tend to stick to their plant-based dietary preferences.
Grasshoppers and Ants: An Overview
Grasshoppers and ants are quite different in their physical appearance. Grasshoppers belong to the order Orthoptera and have:
- Long, powerful hind legs for jumping
- Slender, cylindrical body
- Two pairs of wings
Ants, on the other hand, belong to the order Hymenoptera, and they possess:
- Elbowed antennae
- Divided body into three segments: head, thorax, and abdomen
- Two pairs of wings (only in reproductive castes)
Habitat and Distribution
Grasshoppers and ants occupy various habitats but have different preferences. Grasshoppers thrive in:
- Agricultural fields
They are mostly found in western North America.
Ants, in contrast, prefer:
- Soil, leaf litter, or wood nests
- Nearly all terrestrial ecosystems
- A wide range of climates
Both insects play an essential role in their respective ecosystems. Grasshoppers are herbivores, feeding on plants and contributing to the decomposition process. Ants can have a diverse diet, including other insects, seeds, and plant matter. They help maintain soil structure and facilitate nutrient cycling.
Comparing their distribution and habitat:
|Grasslands, Forests, Agricultural Fields
|Primarily Western North America
|Soil, Leaf Litter, Wood
|Nearly All Terrestrial Ecosystems
Even though grasshoppers and ants share a few common characteristics, their physical traits, habitat preferences, and distribution patterns set them apart.
Dietary Behavior of Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers are primarily herbivores, feeding on a variety of plant materials. Their diet includes:
These insects are known to feed on various crops, such as:
Occasionally, grasshoppers display omnivorous tendencies, feeding on other insects and animal matter to supplement their protein intake. Examples of insects they may consume include:
Moreover, grasshoppers occasionally consume fungi and other microbes within their environment.
Feeding on Ants
Although not a primary food source, grasshopper nymphs have been observed biting and consuming ants when other food sources are scarce. However, it isn’t common for grasshoppers to prey on ants. A comparison table illustrating the differences between their typical diet and their occasional consumption of ants is shown below:
|Grasshoppers’ Typical Diet
|Occasional Omnivorous Behavior
|Primarily plant material
|Insects and animal matter
|Leaves, flowers, and seeds
|Bugs, crickets, and larvae
|Ants (in rare occasions)
To recap, grasshoppers are largely herbivorous insects, primarily feeding on plants, leaves, and crops. However, they may occasionally consume insects or other animal matter, such as ants, to supplement their protein intake. Overall, these insects play an essential role in their ecosystems, serving as both herbivores and opportunistic omnivores.
Ant Biology and Behavior
Life in a Colony
Ants are social insects that live in communities called colonies. A typical ant colony consists of:
- One or more queens: These are the reproducing females, responsible for laying eggs.
- Male ants: Their primary role is to mate with the queen, and they usually die shortly after mating.
- Worker ants: These are sterile females that perform various tasks within the colony, such as foraging for food and caring for the larvae.
Ants communicate using a variety of chemical signals called pheromones. They use these signals to coordinate their activities, such as foraging and defending their nests.
Types of Ants
There are over 12,000 known ant species worldwide. Some common examples are:
- Carpenter ants: Known for nesting in wooden structures, causing damage to homes.
- Fire ants: Characterized by their aggressive behavior, painful sting, and reddish-brown color.
- Leafcutter ants: Known for their unique behavior of cutting leaves and using them to grow fungus for food.
|Cause damage to homes
|Aggressive, painful sting
|Cut leaves, grow fungus for food
Ants display a wide range of social behaviors, such as division of labor within the colony and cooperative behavior during foraging or nest building. Each ant colony operates as a single cohesive unit, with individual ants working together to ensure the survival and success of the colony.
Natural Enemies of Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers, members of the order Orthoptera, have numerous predators in their grassland ecosystems. Some common enemies include:
- Birds: Many bird species hunt grasshoppers, using their sharp beaks to snatch them out of the air or off plants.
- Spiders: Various spider species, such as orb-weaving spiders, trap grasshoppers in their webs and take advantage of the insect’s inability to escape.
- Insect predators: Robber flies and other predatory insects have powerful mandibles to grab and consume grasshoppers.
- Snakes and lizards: Reptiles, including snakes and lizards, are known to hunt grasshoppers in their natural habitats.
- Katydids: These insects, closely related to grasshoppers, engage in cannibalistic behavior and may consume their grasshopper cousins.
Natural Enemies of Ants
Ants, despite being well-known for their cooperative behavior and strong mandibles, also face various predators:
- Spider: Like grasshoppers, ants can fall victim to spiders that catch them in webs or actively hunt them.
- Predatory insects: Insects such as assassin bugs and certain types of beetles prey upon ants.
- Birds: Many bird species consume ants, either seeking them out directly or opportunistically feeding on them.
- Lizards and frogs: Small reptiles and amphibians, such as lizards and frogs, will consume ants as a part of their diet.
- Anteaters and other mammals: Specialized mammal predators, such as anteaters, feed almost exclusively on ants and termites.
|Birds, spiders, insects, snakes, lizards, katydids
|Spiders, insects, birds, lizards, frogs, anteaters
While both grasshoppers and ants have an array of natural predators, they do not typically prey on one another. Grasshoppers, being herbivores, primarily consume plant material, and ants mainly feed on other insects, seeds, and nectar. Though there are instances of grasshoppers opportunistically eating ants, it is not a primary source of nutrients for them.
Grasshoppers and Crops
Grasshoppers are polyphagous insects, meaning they feed on various types of plants, including green leaves and crop fields such as cotton, oats, and rye. They typically avoid consuming toxic plants, preferring to forage on readily available nourishment sources. For example, grasshopper species Tettigoniidae feed on various plant parts, decomposing animal dung, and other small critters.
Baby grasshoppers, or nymphs, focus on growing by molting through various stages until they reach adulthood. During this period, they tend to be less discriminative in their food choices. This, unfortunately, can cause significant damage to vegetation, including important agricultural crops.
- Pros: Grasshoppers serve as an essential part of the ecosystem by participating in nutrient cycling.
- Cons: Grasshoppers are capable of destroying valuable crops when present in large populations.
Ants and Coexistence
Ants are a diverse group of insects with over 12,000 species, comprising various families, lifestyles, and dietary preferences. While grasshoppers are predominantly vegetarian, ants can be omnivorous, carnivorous, or even herbivorous, depending on their specific species. Many ants form colonies, efficiently cooperating in their search for food and resources. They are known for being industrious creatures, quite the opposite of being lazy.
In the environment, ants and grasshoppers coexist, affecting each other indirectly. For instance, ants feed on specific plants, leaving less food for grasshoppers. On the other hand, grasshopper populations may fluctuate, influencing the availability of resources for the ants. However, no direct interactions between grasshoppers and ants in terms of predation have been cited.
|Varies by species
|Herbivores, crop pests
Conclusion and Takeaways
Grasshoppers and ants are two vastly different insects, with distinct behaviors and diets. For instance, most grasshoppers are herbivores, primarily consuming plant matter1. Ants, on the other hand, can showcase various feeding preferences, including herbivory, carnivory, and more2.
When considering size, grasshoppers generally range from 0.4 to 2.75 inches, while ants can be as small as 0.03 to as large as 1.6 inches34. This variation in size often prevents any direct conflict or interactions between these two insects.
In the world of fables, stories like The Ant and the Grasshopper5 capture the essence of the potential contrast in their behaviors, suggesting zero bullying behavior between these species.
Here are some key characteristics of grasshoppers and ants:
- Herbivorous diet
- Larger in size
- Known for their jumping abilities
- Varied diet (herbivorous, carnivorous, scavengers)
- Smaller in size
- Known for their cooperation and social behavior
Comparing grasshoppers and snails, the latter are slow-moving mollusks that primarily feed on plant material6. Grasshoppers move at a much faster pace and may accidentally damage or prey on snails under certain circumstances7.
In conclusion, grasshoppers do not typically eat ants. Instead, these insects maintain their separate diets and habitats. With differing sizes, behaviors, and ecological roles, there’s little potential for direct conflict between these two species.
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 – Green Grass Pyrgomorph
Stick Insect bug
Location: Bushland in Western Victoria
January 29, 2012 12:53 am
I’ve discovered a bug that seems to belong to the Phasmatodea family, but because it has legs like a grasshopper (it jumps pretty fast) i’m not sure what family it belongs to let alone its genus or species. Could you identify this bug and inform me of what it feeds on?
We believe we have correctly identified your Grasshopper as a Green Grass Pyrgomorph in the genus Atractomorpha based on photographs posted to the Brisbane Insect Website which indicates: “This grasshopper is also known as Vegetable Grasshopper. They are common in Brisbane and easily found on grasses and other garden plants.” The site also states: “The Vegetable Grasshoppers feed on different type of leaves, mainly on dicotyledonous plants.”
Letter 2 – Grasshopper Molting
What’s going on here?
July 18, 2009
I came across this poor black beetle dragging itself across the rocks on a river shore in north-central Alberta. It was not very energetic to say the least and appeared to be ‘carrying’ something quite dead. I poked gently for signs of life, but barely spurred the black fellow to move. There was no reaction from the other one.
I did let nature take its course after taking this photo, and must say that the picture seems to show that there was more than ‘carrying’ going on. Was the ‘eater’ killed by the ‘eaten’, but too late? I admit I am a little sickened, but so very curious as to the possible scenario here.
I thank you in advance for any information you might be able to give me.
Swan Hills, Alberta
Dear Just learning,
Though this may look like a macabre scene, the Short Horned Grasshopper in the family Acrididae is actually just molting. It is still immature. We cannot tell you the genus or species, but the action depicted is a common occurrence, happening five times in the life of every grasshopper that achieves maturity.
Letter 3 – Grasshopper Nymph
Attached is a picture of a mini-grasshopper. This was photographed in Atlanta, GA, USA on April 18, 2005. The size is about 4 or 5 mm long. I’ve seen several since then. I’ve looked at several photos of pygmy grasshoppers and haven’t found one like this. I would appreciate any help on the ID.
Springtime is the time for baby animals, grasshoppers included. While I can’t positively identify your species, I can tell you it is recently hatched, and will go through several moults until it emerges as an identifiable winged adult.
Letter 4 – Grasshopper Nymph from Panama:
Location: Chirqui Panama
May 10, 2013 2:36 pm
I found this little fellow under a leaf. What do you think? Love your site btw!
Signature: Bug lover
Dear Bug Lover,
This is the nymph of Tropidacris cristata, the largest Grasshopper in Central America.
Letter 5 – Grasshopper nymph from India
Subject: Bug to be identified ASAP
Location: pathanamthitta, kerala, india
August 15, 2014 4:43 am
I’m from Kerala, India. What insect is this? Please find it out. It is some sort of grass hopper or cricket?
This is an immature Grasshopper in the suborder Caelifera, and we will attempt to provide you with a species identification, however, often nymphs look very different from adults, and often it is the adults that are documented in images. We found a very similar looking pair of Grasshoppers identified as Painted Grasshoppers, but with no scientific name, on the Samyak Photography Macro page. Another similar looking individual is posted to TrekNature, and again, it is identified as a Painted Grasshopper with no scientific name indicating the genus or species. Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck with an identity than we have had.
Letter 6 – Grasshoppers
Dear What’s that Bug,
On vacation a few weeks ago we spotted quite a big, wonderful insect, but we’re note able to find it in any of our books. Can you tell more about it ? The most impressing thing was it’s size, it’s really huge for an insect I think… We found it in the french pyrenees at about 1800 mtr height, walking in the grass. It looks grasshopper-like at first glance. has six green legs, but the hind legs are not really bigger then te rest as with regular grasshoppers. It didn’t seem to jump, just walked. The body is mainly green with yellowish segments or rings, totally about 5 or 6 cm long, 1.5 cm thick. No wings, and a large scary-looking brown ‘needle’ at it’s back (about 2 cm long ?). Head and body are separated by a brownish stiff-looking joint. Any idea what this could be ?
My guess is a member of the order Orthoptera, which includes crickets, grasshoppers, mantids and the like. No wings implies an immature or nymph stage. It could be a walking stick or even a French praying "preying" mantis. A more detainled description, or better yet, a photo, would help.
I saw that someone asked about a bug spotted in the French Pyrenees. It seems to be the same kind we saw this autumn. See image at the bottom of: http://hem.passagen.se/jorun/djur-bilder2.htm . After some investigations we found that it is a female Ephippiger Ephippiger (I think it is called saddle-backed bush cricket in English) The brown "stick" is the egg laying tube.
Letter 7 – Grasshoppers from Patagonia
Subject: Flightless Grasshoppers
Geographic location of the bug: Argentine Patagonia
Time: 02:31 PM EDT
On the high windy mountains and mountain slopes of Argentine Patagonia we often find these large chunky flightless grasshoppers. They often occur in cold areas. Any idea what genus/species they might be?
How you want your letter signed: Martin
Just as in your previous submission, we have located a matching image, this time on Alamy, but again, there is no family, genus or species identification. These Grasshoppers remind us of North American Toad Lubbers in the genus Phrynotettix pictured on BugGuide and they might be closely related. Alas, there is not a good database of Argentine Grasshoppers that we are able to locate online.
Looking on the web, could these be Elasmoderus sp.?
We wish you had provided a link regarding the genus. We found an image on Atacama Insects, and though similar looking, we don’t think they look like the same species. Because of the remoteness of the location, there might not be much documentation on the internet.
Letter 8 – Grasshoppers Mating
great web site & bug love pix
We are building a house in the woods and I have found so many strange bugs. So far, I have been able to find them on your delightful web site. Attached is a pair of grasshoppers for consideration for your bug love page – I don’t think you have any of those.
Thanks for the mating Grasshopper photo. They are in the genus Melanoplus.
Letter 9 – Grasshoppers mating in Jordan
I saw a swarm of these grasshoppers over 10 years ago on an islated mountain side at Petra in Jordan, then saw them again this summer, they suddenly appear for only a few hours seemingly to mate then disappear again. Only one person I know has ever seen them, and nobody seems to know what they are, cannot seem to find images on the net. Thanks for the help
There is a noticeable dearth of information available on the insects from your part of the world. We hope to have an expert at least give us a genus on these critters.
Update: (05/13/2007) black hopper from Jordan
thanks for the wonderful site. The black hopper from Jordan (see citation below) is Poekilocerus bufonius, quite poisoness, eats desert asclepids. Greetings,
Ophir Tal, Israel.
Letter 10 – Great Crested Grasshopper Nymph
Subject: Mystery grasshopper
Geographic location of the bug: Silver City, NM
Time: 06:15 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman : I found this grasshopper while walking up a wash in Silver City. I’ve never seen one like it before. Can you identify it for me?
How you want your letter signed: Karen Nakakihara
Thanks for resending your image. This beauty is a Great Crested Grasshopper nymph, Tropidolophus formosus, and we identified it on BugGuide. According to BugGuide its habitat is “Dry low-elevation grasslands and desert grasslands” and it “Feeds on low-growing Malvaceae shrubs such as Malvastrum and Sphaeralcea.” Your image is beautiful.
Thanks for IDing both my submissions. I appreciate the work you do.
Letter 11 – Green Cancun Grasshoppers
very large grasshoppers
Recently my girl and I visited Cancun. I was mentioning to her about the pretty little birds flying from the trees to the fifth floor of the hotel balcony. On the second day I realized they were some sort of grasshopper, all green, about 4" long with a red body under its wings only visible when they flew. What the heck are they?
Paul, Boston, MA
We are not really familiar with Mexican Grasshoppers, but we have a large American species, the Green Valley Grasshopper, Schistocerca shoshone, that is big and travels in devastating hordes, severely damaging grasslands. We do love your photo though.
Letter 12 – Green Legged Grasshopper
Weird red/white beetle?
May 23, 2010
I encountered these three interesting bugs (the red white beetle, the bug with the green legs, and the yellow caterpillar) during a visit to the smokey mountains last week. Any idea what those are?
Smoky Mountains National Park
The red and white “beetle” you are curious about is actually an Oak Treehopper, Platycotis vittata, a species well represented on our website. The photo that has us excited is the green legged insect, which we first believed might be a Carolina Oak Grasshopper, Dendrotettix zimmermanni, based on a single image posted to BugGuide that created quite a dialog regarding its proper identity. We did additional research, and we are now relatively confident that your grasshopper is a Green Legged Grasshopper, Melanoplus viridipes, a species well represented on BugGuide.
Letter 13 – Greetings from Trevor
Just wishing you a happy new year, hope it is a good one. I see global warming has taken another holiday there. Hope you are all keeping warm.
I was looking at the Robberfly eats Bee post from Jen and noticed that some of the thumbnails below were my shots. I clicked a couple to reminisce and found it amazing that it has been over 7 years since I started sending shots to you. Where did the time go?
Anyway, all the best.
Well, most of North America may be experiencing record low temperatures, but it is sunny and hot in Los Angeles and we are experiencing the driest year on record. We just received a correction on one of your submissions. The Bark Mimic Grasshopper you submitted was later identified as a similar looking Stem Grasshopper.
Letter 14 – Hooded Grouse Locust
June 2, 2010
we found this bug (four legs) at a ponds edge. We thought it was a tadpole/frog but when we inspected it, it had an abdomon, looked like maybe wings, four legs and a grasshoppers head? It sure is a strange looking thing, very interesting. Please could you help us find out what it is? Thanks
homeschool family in TN
West TN, USA
Dear homeschool family,
We believe we have identified your grasshopper as a Hooded Grouse Locust, Paratettix cucullatus, by matching your photos to images posted to BugGuide.
Letter 15 – Immature Aztec Spur-Throat Grasshopper
Subject: What is this?
Location: Austin Texas
July 26, 2015 6:49 pm
Saw this on a plant I have growing outdoors in my backyard.
This colorful nymph is an Aztec Spur-Throat Grasshopper, Aidemona azteca. BugGuide provides this information: “I couldn’t associate them with any particular single host plant, but the nymphs do seem to be partial to flowers. The coloring of young nymphs seems intriguing, and implies two possibilities. One is that they don’t taste good (not true ??). The other is that they are mimicking the ‘look’ of things that sting such as wasps and bees (which seems to be a common occurence in arthropods that like flowers – i.e. spiders, beetles, flies, etc.). Off-hand, I can’t think of any other grasshoppers in the US with this sort of coloring in the nymphs, unless they are southern species that I’ve never seen. Generally cryptic coloring is the rule for Grasshoppers (even Dactylotum is rather inconspicuous in habitat, till it jumps – broken pattern camouflage I think for that one – birds certainly do like Dactylotum). — David J Ferguson”
Letter 16 – Immature Aztec Spur Throated Grasshopper
Grasshopper Nymph, small, black & yellow
July 1, 2010
Have not seen this nymph before & do not know what the adult looks like. It is very small as you can see by size of the nail head in fence. Found July 1, 2010 and it’s coloration stood out on the old fence. Curiosity got me.
San Antonio, Texas 78219
Hi Just Jim,
We started by searching our own archives because we recall posting an image of this lovely species of Grasshopper nymph in the past. Alas, the image we posted in 2004 was never identified. We quickly identified your Aztec Spur Throated Grasshopper nymph, Aidemona azteca, by searching BugGuide. The adults are not as colorful as the immature nymphs.
Letter 17 – Immature Carolina Grasshopper
Dusty Gray Hopper in the Woodpile
July 19, 2009
I found this odd looking grasshopper while stacking firewood at the edge of my yard. It was just sitting there on a tarp. Originally I picked it up to look at it more closely because I couldn’t see its eyes. There are plenty of grasshoppers of all sizes in my yard and garden including little leafhoppers eating up the garden. But they all have shiny visible eyes. Not this guy however.
I put it in a jar for a few minutes so I could look more closely but it didn’t help me see any better. It pooped a couple of times in the jar as big as mouse poo.
Then I took it outside and let it out of the jar and took photos thinking I would find it online and could use the picture for verification. But I didn’t find it.
This dusty looking hopper was about two inches long and it didn’t fly away so I don’t think it had wings. The legs had dark stripes most prominent on the inside of the hind legs. The dusty look was a lavender and brownish gray.
Ellensburg, WA USA
We believe this most resembles a Toad Lubber Grasshopper in the genus Phrynotettix, but we are not happy with that identification. It looks a bit like the Robust Toad Lubber, Phrynotettix robustus, but we are not certain how far north that species ranges since the only examples on BugGuide are from Texas. We hope one of our readers will be able to provide an accurate identification and additional information since BugGuide only has limited information on the genus, and we really aren’t convinced that is relevant anyways.
Correction from Eric Eaton
The grasshopper from Ellensburg, Washington is simply a late instar nymph of the familiar and common “Carolina grasshopper,” Dissosteira carolina. The deep single notch in the “crest” of the pronotum (top part of thorax) identifies it immediately. Another molt or two and it will be an adult.
I have not made time to research the other longhorns from overseas, sorry. Should get to it sometime this week….
Thanks for the help. I wonder if this little guy came attached to a chunk of firewood as I
buy it from a tree trimmer in town who goes all over doing tree maintenance.
I have never seen anything like this hopper and I’ve lived here 26 years now.
I looked for more photos of the Carolina one but didn’t find anything like this, however that
may be because of the “moultings” the other poster mentions. I know virtually nothing of
grasshopper life cycles etc…lol I just thought it was a neat bug that sort of looked like
it had on armor, and the dusty looking eyes were so different. It was also larger than the
largest regular grasshoppers here.
Thanks again. Love your site!
Mary Anne O’Sullivan