Grasshoppers are insects known for their ability to consume a variety of plant material. Often found in fields, gardens, and meadows, they can be seen jumping from plant to plant, devouring leaves and stems.
These insects are not picky eaters, as they have a broad host range, consuming at least 100 species of plants from 38 plant families, which include shrubs, herbs, broadleaf weeds, and grasses. Though grasshoppers eat grass, they also cause damage to other types of vegetation by creating irregular holes in leaves before moving on to the next plant.
Grasshopper populations can vary from year to year, with severe outbreaks typically occurring every 8 to 10 years. During these times, they can cause significant damage to plants, including grasslands and agricultural crops.
Grasshoppers and Their Diet
Herbivores and What They Eat
Grasshoppers are primarily herbivores, feeding on a variety of plant matter. Adult grasshoppers primarily eat grass, leaves, and flowers. Some examples of plants they consume include:
Aphids and Protein Intake
However, grasshoppers are not strictly herbivorous. Some types of grasshoppers occasionally prey on small insects like aphids for an additional source of protein. These grasshoppers can be omnivorous, with their diet including both plant and animal matter.
Here is a comparison table of herbivorous and omnivorous grasshoppers:
|Herbivorous Grasshoppers||Omnivorous Grasshoppers|
|Diet||Primarily plant matter||Plant and animal matter|
|Pros||Less competition for food sources||Broader food options|
|Cons||Limited to available plant matter||May consume beneficial insects|
Grasshoppers’ eating habits change during their life stages. Nymphs and larvae focus on tender plant parts, whereas adults eat tougher plant parts.
In conclusion, most grasshoppers mainly eat grass and other plant matter, but some species also consume insects such as aphids to supplement their protein intake. Their diet and feeding habits can vary depending on their life stage and specific ecological niche.
Feeding on Grasses and Plants
Preference for Leafy Greens
Grasshoppers are known to feed on a variety of plants, but they have a preference for leafy greens. Some of their favorites include:
Grasshoppers can cause significant damage to garden plants, especially when they are present in large numbers1.
Consumption of Fruit and Grains
In addition to leafy greens, grasshoppers also consume fruits, grains, and other plant parts. Their diet can extend to:
- Fruits like berries
- Crops such as corn, wheat, and barley2
Here is a comparison table of grasshoppers’ dietary preferences:
|Lettuce, spinach, kale||Barley, corn, wheat||Berries|
|Clover, dandelions||Alfalfa||Other fruits|
While grasshoppers consume various types of plants, they can also play a helpful role in controlling weeds3. However, their feeding habits can become problematic for farmers and gardeners when these insects appear in large numbers.
Grasshoppers and Agriculture
Impact on Crop Production
Grasshoppers are known to have a significant impact on agriculture as they feed on various crops. They can reduce the quality and quantity of forage that is produced, which affects ranchers’ ability to use pastures effectively for grazing1. Grasshoppers consume up to 50% of their body weight every day in forage1, making their impact on crops even more severe. Some of the crops affected by grasshoppers include:
These insects can also devour plants found in gardens, such as tomatoes and squash3.
There are various techniques to combat grasshoppers’ impact on agriculture. These methods include:
- Chemical control: The use of insecticides such as pyrethroid or organophosphates can help control grasshopper populations2.
- Biological control: Introducing natural predators like birds and spiders can help reduce grasshopper numbers.
- Physical barriers: Installing row covers and screens can protect valuable plants3. However, grasshoppers are known to eat through most fabric screens, making aluminum window screens the best option3.
- Irrigation: Keeping vegetation in surrounding areas green can deter grasshoppers from invading gardens3.
Toxic and Resistant Plant Varieties
Some plants contain toxic compounds or possess resistant characteristics that can deter grasshoppers from feeding on them. Examples of toxic plants include:
Despite these tactics, grasshoppers remain one of the most difficult insects to control due to their high mobility4.
Grasshopper Life Cycle and Eating Habits
Eating as Nymphs, Adults, and Baby Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers begin their life cycle as eggs buried in the soil. After hatching in mid-to-late spring, they emerge as nymphs and start feeding immediately ^(1). Baby grasshoppers, called nymphs, look similar to adults, but have underdeveloped wings.
- Nymphs: These young grasshoppers feed voraciously on plants.
- Adults: Fully developed grasshoppers continue to eat a large amount of vegetation.
Nymphs and adults have a variety of predators, including mice, frogs, and lizards.
Seasonal Feeding Patterns
Grasshoppers are active during the warmer months of spring, summer, and fall. They feed on a wide range of plants, including grass, trees, and shrubs.
|Spring||Nymphs emerge and begin feeding|
|Summer||Continued feeding by nymphs and adults|
|Fall||Feeding decreases as temperatures cool|
During these seasons, grasshoppers can cause significant damage to plants, sometimes completely stripping the foliage from entire gardens ^(5). However, their feeding patterns may vary based on specific seasonal factors, such as temperature and plant availability.
Defensive Measures for Gardens
Using Ornamental and Landscape Plants
There are several plants that can help repel grasshoppers from your garden. Some examples include:
- Dianthus: This flowering plant is known to be less appealing to grasshoppers due to its strong scent.
- Lilac: Grasshoppers tend to avoid lilac bushes, making them a great addition to your garden for protection.
- Forsythia: This bright yellow flowering shrub can help deter grasshoppers from feasting on your other plants.
Other plants that can help protect your garden from grasshoppers include crepe myrtle, moss rose, verbena, salvia, lantana, juniper, artemisia, and jasmine. Planting these species around the border of your garden can create a natural barrier against grasshoppers.
In addition to ornamental plants, some vegetable plants like squash and peas tend to be less attractive to grasshoppers and could be used strategically.
|Plant||Attractiveness to Grasshoppers|
Natural Predators for Grasshopper Control
Introducing natural predators can help control grasshopper populations in your garden. Some of the most effective predators include:
- Birds: Species like sparrows, crows, and grackles love feasting on grasshoppers, making them valuable allies in your fight against these pests.
- Flies: The larvae of certain fly species, such as the tachinid fly, can combat grasshopper populations by parasitizing the grasshopper eggs.
- Snakes: Species like garter snakes are known to prey on grasshoppers and can help keep their populations in check.
By combining ornamental and landscape plants that deter grasshoppers with an encouraging environment for their natural predators, you’ll create a robust defense against these hungry insects.
Unique Eating Behaviors
Cannibalism Among Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers are known for their cannibalistic tendencies. When food sources become scarce, they resort to eating each other to survive. Here are some quick facts:
- Cannibalism is more likely when grasshoppers congregate in large numbers, such as in swarms of locusts.
- Larger grasshoppers often eat smaller ones as a way to gain nutrition and maintain their body weight.
For example, a grasshopper under stress may consume a smaller one that strays too close, ensuring its own survival.
Comparison to Crickets and Other Insects
Grasshoppers and crickets belong to the same order, Orthoptera. However, their eating habits differ. Here’s a comparison table:
|Grasshopper||Mostly grasses, leaves, and other plant matter|
|Cricket||Omnivorous, consuming plant material, insects, and even small animals|
In comparison to other insects like mosquitoes, grasshoppers exhibit a more varied diet. Mosquitoes solely feed on blood or nectar, while grasshoppers eat plant-based foods and may also consume other insects.
When discussing other non-insect organisms, grasshoppers can be likened to animals that eat nuts or sand as additional sources of nutrition. For example, some rodents consume nuts as part of their diet, while certain birds ingest sand to help with digestion.
Pros and Cons of Grasshoppers’ Diet
Some advantages and disadvantages of grasshoppers’ eating habits include:
- Grasshoppers help control weed populations by consuming unwanted plants.
- Their diverse diet allows them to survive in various environments.
- During a food shortage, grasshoppers resort to cannibalism and may…dispose of their companions.
- In large numbers, they can cause significant damage to crops and vegetation.
In summary, grasshoppers exhibit unique eating behaviors, including occasional cannibalism, and have a varied diet in comparison to other insects like crickets and mosquitoes.
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 – Immature Grasshopper from Costa Rica: Tropidacris cristata
Costa Rican grasshopper
March 28, 2010
This is a (very impressive) grasshopper I found last summer in the Manuel Antonio National Park in Costa Rica. It’s about an inch long. I know it’s a grasshopper (probably, I think) but I was wondering if it’s a special grasshopper. If not, it’s special to me, at least.
(Also, I just found your wonderful site and am submitting several inquiries about bugs I’ve been pondering for a while. I acknowledge your limited time to respond to these requests and will not get worked up if you can’t respond to all/most/any of them.)
Costa Rica, Pacific Coast
Your letter is so sweet and thoughtful. We agree that this is a pretty special looking Grasshopper, and we do not know what it is. We hope to be able to identify it soon, but meanwhile, we are posting it as unidentified in the hope that our readership can assist in the identification. We may also contact Piotr Naskrecki who has identified many Costa Rican Orthopterans for us.
We found a match online, but it is not identified.
Piotr Naskrecki identifies this nymph
This is a nymph of Tropidacris cristata (Romaleidae), the largest
grasshopper in Central America. The adults lose the beautiful, striped
pattern, but gain huge, red wings.
We have identified the adult Tropidacris dux several times, and we wonder if the two are the same species or just close relatives. This is the first submission we have gotten of the immature nymph in the genus with its drastically different coloration. The Forestry Images website indicates that dux is a subspecies of Tropidacris cristata.
Yes, T. cristata dux is a subspecies of T. cristata, but I would be careful
assigning this animal to a subspecies based on a nymph.
Letter 2 – Injured Grasshopper with Oozing Eggs
Subject: Can you identify this Grasshopper please.
September 20, 2016 7:56 am
Hello, we were outside at the zoo in Minnesota on 9-19-2016. It was very warm outside and we came across this Grasshopper which had what looked like larve on its back. It was very docile and allowed me to photograph it a few times. Help us solve our curiosity about this odd little critter.
Thanks for an awesome sight,
Signature: Adam Godes
This is not a healthy Grasshopper. We believe it is a Spur-Throated Grasshopper from the subfamily Melanoplinae which is well represented on BugGuide. The Grasshopper is definitely injured, as it is missing its hind legs, which are the legs used for jumping. We believe that injury has led to this female Grasshopper’s Eggs being expelled through the wounds. We have an image in our archives of an Obscure Bird Grasshopper that looks very similar. We received a comment to that image from Brandon who wrote: “so I found the same thing when I was feeding my turtle. Pulled off the legs of a grasshopper to feed him and out came these yellow ovals. I believe them to be eggs too.”
Letter 3 – Immature Grasshopper from South Africa likely a Garden Locust
Subject: Green Grasshopper/Locust
Location: Pietermaritzburg [South Africa]
February 7, 2013 2:45 am
I found this one legged specimen at the weekend. Is it a grasshopper or a locust?
Your question is a matter of semantics, and we know the answer yet we cannot provide you with the complete answer. This is a Grasshopper, and judging by the undeveloped wings, it is a juvenile nymph. Grasshoppers are classified as Shorthorned Orthopterans in the suborder Caelifera. A Locust is a name given to Grasshoppers that travel in large swarms and that often damage crops. So all Locusts are Grasshoppers, but not all Grasshoppers are Locusts. Since we don’t know the species, we cannot say for certain if it is a Locust, but we do know that it is a Grasshopper.
I was hoping to narrow it down to a species. Any ideas?
Karl provides some input
Hi Daniel and Sally:
It’s probably an immature Garden Locust (Acanthacris ruficornis). The nymphs are usually a soft green but can also be brown or even pink as late instars. This is in contrast to the brown mottled adults, an example of which appeared on this site not too long ago. Despite its name, this is not a swarming grasshopper and should not, therefore, be considered a locust. Regards. Karl
Letter 4 – Immature Rain Locust from Tanzania
Subject: White African Grasshopper?
Location: Tanzania, africa
November 19, 2014 3:04 pm
I was trekking in Africa this summer  and came across this strange Grasshopper, any ideas?
Our initial search did not turn up anything, but we are posting your image and we hope to be able to provide you with an identification soon.
Update: November 27, 2014
Thanks to a comment from Daria, we agree that this appears to be an immature Rain Locust in the genus Lamarckiana based on this image on Africa Wild. The white coloration may be due to a recent molt.
Letter 5 – Immature Grasshopper
what is this, a grasshopper?
I enjoy your site. I photographed this insect yesterday in Northern NJ, it was hopping around on the ground among the type of stones you would find around railroad tracks. I am having trouble identifying this insect, and I am not sure if this is its natural color or if it has camouflaged itself. It appears to be some sort of grasshopper. Is it?
Thanks, Joe O.
This is a Grasshopper, but it is immature. It will soon grow its adult wings and be capable of flight. These types of grasshoppers often have yellow and black striped underwings which show gaudily in flight.
Letter 6 – Immature Grasshopper
Subject: Katydid Classification
Location: Central Texas
March 14, 2015 9:02 am
I took a photo of a very green katydid with black spotted eyes. Have searched several sites with no success at getting an exact match for identification. Any help would be appreciated.
This is an immature Grasshopper in the family Acrididae, not a Katydid. Our best guess at this time is that this may be a Bird Grasshopper in the genus Schistocerca as it looks similar to this individual posted to BugGuide.
Thank you for your quick response. So many varieties just in my back yard, need to spend some early mornings getting more shots of them.
Letter 7 – Immature Grasshopper
Subject: Garden critters
Location: Central Pennsylvania
April 2, 2015 10:17 am
Some areas are starting to plant their gardens and some are in harvest time. A reminder that we share our garden with little friends that blend in well, as this photo taken last August shows. Since we do not want to eat them or have them taking up residence in our homes, it is important to give our veggies a little shake and rinse before bringing them indoors. Be gentle!
Thanks for sending your gentle advice to home gardeners. We are not certain what species of Grasshopper nymph is represented in your image.
Letter 8 – Immature Grasshopper
Subject: Cool Guy
Geographic location of the bug: Park in Mpls, MN
Time: 10:26 PM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: My kids and I found this cool looking guy yesterday in the grass at a park. It reminds me of the bad guy in A Bug’s Life but I’m not sure what it is exactly. We enjoyed our time with him and then sent him on his way happily. Just curious what kind of insect it is. Thank you!
How you want your letter signed: Andrea
This is an immature Grasshopper, and we believe based on this BugGuide image and this BugGuide image, it is a member of the genus Trimerotropis. According to BugGuide, there are “43 North American species.”
Thank you so much for your response! My kids were excited to learn about their buddy. 🙂
Letter 9 – Immature Grasshopper from Brazil
November 19, 2011
I found this beautyful Grasshopper. It was about the size of my nail and I think it’s immature. Any clue about it?
The Location is Jaraguá, São Paulo, Brazil.
Please use our standard form for submissions in the future. We apologize for the delay, but we have been busy. We don’t know the species, but you are correct that this is a nymph. Often nymphs change their coloration drastically as they mature.
I think my concept of delay is quite different from yours. It was so fast! And please do not apologize, I just have to thank you for everything I learned with you.
Identification Courtesy of Karl
Hi Daniel and Cesar:
I believe it is an immature Lubber Grasshopper (Romaleidae) in the genus Zoniopoda. It looks a lot like Z. omnicolor (see enlargement here), but apparently that species does not occur along the Atlantic coast of Brazil. Another possibility is Z. tarsata, which is more common and more widely distributed than Z. omnicolor. I was only able to find one online image identified as an immature Z. tarsata, on a site for the Reserva Natural Isla Martin Garcia (once you figure out how to navigate through the site it is the third last image). (See adult Zoniopoda tarsata here.) Regards. Karl
Thanks much Karl. We now have to update the mating Heteropterans from Namibia. We didn’t read your identification yet, but we did notice you sent it.
Letter 10 – Immature Grasshopper "Herd" in South Africa
Possibly a Grasshopper ?
Mon, Nov 24, 2008 at 7:49 AM
This group of several dozen bugs was seen early afternoon. They would move a few centimetres then stop (all on top of each other) and then move again in unison. We inotially thought they were on top of and eating something but this was not the case as when they moved there was no trace of anything where they had been.
Peter St Clair
St Lucia Wetlands Park, South Africa
These are immature Grasshoppers or Nymphs. We are not certain of the species however. They resemble North American Lubber Grasshoppers in the family Romaleidae. We especially like your vivid description of the “herd’s” method of locomotion.
Wow, you have been very busy posting! I turn my back for a week and….wham! LOL!
The “grasshopper herd” are nymphs of something in the Pyrgomorphidae most likely, being that colorful and all.
Letter 11 – Indonesian Grasshopper
I found this beautiful little grasshopper in the garden, I live in Jakarta Indonesia (Southeast Asia). Could you please let me know what species is this one?. I hope these pictures will add as a collection on your site.
We are catching up on unanswered mail and we are posting your lovely photograph of a beautiful metallic grasshopper. We have no idea what the species is, but it sure is pretty.
Letter 12 – Insect or Fishing Lure???
Subject: scary hybrid looking bug
Location: Western Oklahoma USA
August 18, 2014 5:57 pm
My assistant found this bug in her dog’s water dish.
Signature: Beth Tones
This “thing” looks Orthopteran, like a Grasshopper, however it is missing its jumping legs. Though it is somewhat realistic, it does not look like any species of Grasshopper we are familiar with, and we are entertaining the possibility that it is a lifelike fishing lure not unlike the many examples pictured on the Realistic Fishing Lures and Fly Tying page of Graham Owen’s Gallery.
Letter 13 – Large Grasshopper from Venezuela
this Grasshopper lives in the south of Venezuela. Locals said, it is the biggest Species there.
Thanks for all the photos you sent in. It will take some time to post them all, but we will try. Hopefully, womeone will write in and identify some of your creatures.
Letter 14 – Locust from Spain
Subject: Bug Identification
Location: Denia, Alicante, Spain
February 18, 2014 8:18 am
Hi Bug People,
Wonder whether you can help with the identification of this one.
Had various sightings of the attached type over the last few years in Costa Blanca Spain. This one was pictured on 18/02/14, but we have seen them throughout the summer. This one is approx 8cm from nose to tail exluding antenae. Have fished a few out of the pool.
Signature: Andy Ball
We have not had any luck tracking down a species name for your Grasshopper, but we did track down this interesting article from Science Daily on the changes in appearance within the same unnamed species when it goes from a solitary existence to being a social hoard of Desert Locusts that devouring all vegetation in its path. Perhaps one of our readers will be able to substantiate if this is a Desert Locust, Schistocerca gragaria, which is pictured on the National Education Network Gallery.
Many thanks for feedback. Sounds very scary! Would welcome any further confirmation of species.
Letter 15 – Long Headed Grasshopper from United Arab Emirates: Acrida bicolor
Unidentified Grasshopper from the Arabian Desert
Location: Ras Al Khaimah, UAE
July 31, 2011 3:20 am
Hi WTB team:
I found this large ?grasshopper in a remote desert area of Ras Al Khaimah in the UAE last Friday. Could this be ?Acrida bicolor?. I would appreciate your help in id’ing this well-camouflaged creature (it was almost invincible on the dune sand). Many thanks, Ajmal
In our opinion, despite some differences which we will note, we believe you have found an immature Acrica bicolor, which according to the TrekNature website, is also called a Long Headed Grasshopper. The first difference we would like to note is the lack of fully developed wings, which probably indicates this is an immature specimen, especially if the size is compared to the photo of the green individual published on this Live Journal website. Our second observed difference is the shape of the antennae, but since they are jointed, it stands to reason that they are mobile and can change their orientation. We don’t feel either of those differences disqualifies your Grasshopper from being identified as Acrida bicolor. Allow us to make one minor correction to the information you provided. Though we are quite certain that surviving in the desert would qualify a creature as being invincible, we believe that in context with your statement about the Grasshopper being “well-camouflaged” the adjective you meant to use is most likely invisible.
Thanks much for your feedback, much appreciated.
Letter 16 – Long-Headed Toothpick Grasshopper
Hi again, here’s a pic of an unusual grasshopper I found a few months ago. I’m sure it’s a toothpick grasshopper but it looks a little different from the ones I saw on your site. We’re in Orlando FL. I’ve been cutting grass out here commercially for a long time and I’ve never seen one. Wondering if they’re supposed to be common here. It’s about 1 1/2 inches long.
This stunning image is of a Long-Headed Toothpick Grasshopper, Achurum carinatum. There are currently 14 images of this species on BugGuide, and they are all from Florida and Georgia. As to its being common, we believe it is not rare, and there might be many more submissions were it not for the excellent camouflage.
Letter 17 – Mating Differential Grasshoppers
An addition for your "bug love" pages!
I came across your site trying to identify a strange bug I found in my back yard, and I love it!!! Never did find out what the bug was, and didn’t think to take a picture til it was too late! The next day, while out at my brother in law’s house, I found these!! I immediately sent my husband for the camera, and told him I had to take a picture to send to you. They all laughed at me and called me a dork. 😛 So, here you go, a couple of grasshoppers, getting their hop on!! I’m not sure which kind they are, though. Cheers!
There are many criteria we use when trying to select items to post. Rarity is always a plus, but what we are really attracted to is nice imagery. Rarely we get a wonderful letter. We really love your letter and the photo is also quite nice. These are mating Differential Grasshoppers, Melanoplus differentialis, a wide ranging species. Just ask those jaded folk who called you a dork if they were ever published, and then point them to our website where you entry will be archived on the Bug Love 4 page as well as the Grasshopper page. Have a great day.
Letter 18 – Leaf Mimic Grasshopper from Borneo: Systella dusmeti
Leaf grasshopper from Borneo
November 24, 2009
This grasshopper mimicking a yellow leaf was found in Kinabalu National Park, Sabah, Borneo at approximately 1600m elevation in January 2008. I would be grateful for help to discover its species identity.
Kinabalu NP, Sabah, Borneo, altitude c. 1600m
This is quite an amazing looking grasshopper. We will post the image to see if our readership can assist in the identification. We would recommend that you post a comment to this posting so you will be notified directly if you receive an identification.
Karl Provides an ID
November 29, 2009
I believe the genus is Systella, a short-horned grasshopper (Caelifera) in the family Trigonopterygidae. According to the ‘Orthoptera Species File Online’ website this is primarily a southeast Asian genus with seven representatives on Borneo. My hunch is that it is S. dusmeti, but they all look quite similar and I really can’t be certain. Regards.