Grasshoppers are fascinating insects known for their ability to jump great distances. But do they make noise? The answer is yes, grasshoppers do make noise, primarily through a process called stridulation. This involves rubbing their hind legs against their wings, creating a unique sound that varies among different species.
The purpose of these sounds can range from attracting a mate to warning off predators. For instance, some grasshoppers adjust their song harmonics to be heard amidst environmental noise, such as traffic. In the context of human surroundings, grasshoppers have even demonstrated an ability to evolve and alter their tunes over time.
Not all grasshoppers produce noise, but there is a great diversity in both the sounds they create and their overall appearance. In fact, there are over 200 species in California alone, each with unique features and ways of communicating. The study of grasshopper songs and their associated behaviors can provide valuable insights into their lives and interactions.
Do Grasshoppers Make Noise
Sound Production in Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers are known to produce sounds through a process called stridulation. In some species, both sexes can stridulate, but it is mainly done by males to attract females for mating. An example of a grasshopper that produces sound is the eastern lubber grasshopper, which creates noise by rubbing its forewing against its hind wing source.
Features of sound production in grasshoppers:
- Mainly done by males
- Attract females for mating
The Role of Wings and Hind Legs
Grasshoppers produce sound using their wings and hind legs. They have specialized structures on their wings and legs that allow them to create audible noises. In some species, like short-horned grasshoppers, males make sounds by rasping their legs against stiff forewings or producing buzzing noises while in flight source.
Sound production in grasshoppers can vary based on the physical characteristics of their wings and legs. Here’s a comparison of two methods used by grasshoppers to produce sound:
|Rasping legs on wings||Grasshoppers rub their hind legs against their forewings|
|Buzzing in flight||Grasshoppers produce audible noises while flying|
Characteristics of their wings and legs:
- Specialized structures
- Vary between species
- Affect sound production techniques
The sound production in grasshoppers plays a significant role in their mating rituals and communication, showcasing the adaptability of these insects.
Why Grasshoppers Make Noise
Attracting a Mate
Grasshoppers make noise primarily to attract a mate. Males from different species have unique songs they rub their back legs against their wings to create. This noise helps in:
- Locating mates: Females distinguish between songs to identify males of their own species.
- Selection: Some females prefer louder or more intricate songs, influencing mating success.
For example, in the common field grasshopper, the male rubs its back legs to produce rhythmic chirps to attract females.
Another reason grasshoppers make noise is to establish their territory:
- Resource protection: Males who claim the territory can access crucial resources such as food and shelter.
- Competitor deterrence: A strong signal may intimidate rival males and discourage them from encroaching on the territory.
This behavior is seen in some species of Orthoptera, where males use their songs to communicate these territorial boundaries.
Grasshoppers also use noise as a predator defense strategy:
- Warning sound: Certain species, like crepitation, produce loud sounds to startle or deter predators.
- Camouflage: Some grasshoppers may mimic environmental noises to blend in with their surroundings.
Creating sudden, loud noises can help grasshoppers escape from predators like birds and rodents, increasing their chances of survival.
Comparing Grasshoppers with Other Singing Insects
Crickets, Katydids, and Cicadas
Grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and cicadas are often mistaken for one another due to their similar appearances and the sounds they produce. While all these insects create sounds for various reasons, such as courtship and defence, each insect uses distinctive methods to generate their unique noises.
For example, crickets and katydids are known for their long, continuous chirps, while cicadas have a high-pitched buzzing. Here’s a brief comparison table to highlight their differences:
|Insect||Sound Produced||Mechanism of Sound Generation|
|Grasshopper||Chirrup||Rubbing wings together|
|Cricket||Chirp||Rubbing wings together|
|Katydid||Chirp||Rubbing wings together|
|Cicada||Buzzing||Contracting and relaxing tymbals|
Differences in Sound and Mating Calls
When it comes to mating calls, male grasshoppers produce a chirrup, which is distinct from cricket and katydid chirps. This sound is created by rubbing their wings together.
Cicadas generate their unique buzzing sound by rapidly contracting and relaxing special organs called tymbals. This sound is used for both courtship and defence purposes.
Unique Characteristics of Each Insect
While these insects have similarities, each has its unique characteristics:
- Powerful hind legs for jumping
- Short antennae
- Chirrup by rubbing wings together
- Long antennae
- Known for nocturnal singing
- Create sound by rubbing wings together
- Long antennae
- Leaf-like appearance for camouflage
- Rub wings together to produce sound
- Short antennae
- Loudest insect sounds
- Use tymbals to make buzzing sound
By understanding these differences in sound, appearance, and behaviour among grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and cicadas, it becomes easier to distinguish between these fascinating singing insects.
Insights into Grasshopper Songs
Variations Among Species
Grasshoppers belong to the order Orthoptera and have diverse mating songs. Males produce these songs during courtship to attract a mate. One example is the Chorthippus biguttulus species, with a song composed of low and high pitches.
- Field grasshopper songs involve wing casings that create a buzzing sound.
- Mimic grasshopper songs resemble other species’ sounds for various reasons, such as protecting territory or confusing predators.
Songs can also vary in:
- Musical notes: some are simple, while others are more complex or impressive.
- Jumping patterns: grasshoppers may jump or perform courtship flights in unique ways.
Seasonal and Geographical Differences
Grasshopper songs are subject to seasonal and geographical influences. For instance, they may have:
- Different song patterns during months of increased or decreased mating activity.
- Song variations depending on where they live, such as America or the West Midlands.
These factors create regional “accents” in grasshopper songs, making them unique to their environment.
Conservation and Ecology
Grasshopper songs play a part in the conservation industry and ecology. A comparison table illustrates this:
|Corncrake||Nene Washes||Rare bird species|
|Hen Harrier||Scottish Uplands||Predator-prey balance|
|Peatland Grasshopper||West Midlands, UK||Indicator of habitat quality|
In addition to their role in maintaining ecological balance, grasshopper songs can also be a source of inspiration and enjoyment for the human community. Composers have used grasshopper songs in their music, adding to the richness of our artistic heritage.
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 – South African Bush Locust
Check out my new friend
May friend in South Africa sent me this pic and was wondering what it was Thanks.
This is the second South African Bush Locust photo we received this month.
I believe the African Bush Locust pictures you have posted are the Koppie Foam Grasshopper (Dictyophorus spumans). It is indeed Pyrgomorphidae. The Bush Locusts are all supposedly very toxic, and the black & red Dictyophorus is no exception.
Letter 2 – Probably Mischievous Bird Grasshopper
What’s That Bug,
I saw a photo on your site of a red Carolina Locust from Florida. You mentioned that the coloring was due to the soil in that area. I photographed this red grasshopper on Assateague Island, Maryland. It was in the sand dunes and was quite obvious. I was wondering why this particular grasshopper would be red, it certainly doesn’t match the sand.
Thanks for your help,
We are having a problem getting a conclusive ID on this beauty. We will post the photo and hopefully, some entomologist will come to our aid. Eric Eaton wrote in: “The red locust actually looks like a bird grasshopper in the genus Schistocerca. If it was really, really big, then that is most certainly what it was. “
Ed. Note: August 23, 2011
We just identified a Mischievous Bird Grasshopper, and we suspect this is the same species based on BugGuide where it is described as: “Uniform reddish brown coloration above with no lighter bands, small size and pronotal ridge help distinguish this from other members of the genus.”
Letter 3 – Short-Horned Grasshopper species
Any idea what this might be ? It was photographed in Singapore on a 9th floor apartment. I suspect it may be a locust !
Not being familiar with Asian insects, we can tell you it is a member of the Short-Horned Grasshopper Family Acrididae. This includes the Locusts, Lubber Grasshoppers and Bird Grasshoppers. We are not inclined to believe this is one of the swarming locusts and will say so with confidence.
Letter 4 – Slant-Faced Grasshopper
Subject: What’s that bug (Croatia)
September 30, 2012 4:26 pm
please could you help with identification of this awesome guy (pic attached)? I spotted it a few days ago during my vacation in Croatia/Europe, in the bushes at the seaside. Hope your broad knowledge reaches this nice area. Thanks, Aga
PS. This website is a really great project, I’m adding to to my Favourites
please ignore my request, I’ve just identified the bug on my own, as Giant Green Slantface.
I’ll keep checking your website anyway – it’s very interesting,
thanks, best wishes, Aga
When we searched for Giant Green Slantface, we found a similar looking Grasshopper on the Brisbane Insect website identified as Acrida conica. We cannot say for certain this is the same species since Croatia is so far from Australia, but the two definitely look related. BugGuide, a website devoted to North American species, indicates that Slant-Faced Grasshoppers are in the subfamily Gomphocerinae. The Mediterranean Slant-Faced Grasshopper, Acrida ungarica, as pictured on RedBubble, is a more likely candidate for your part of the world.
Letter 5 – Say’s Grasshopper
Subject: texas grasshopper id
Location: cedar ridge preserve, Dallas, TX
August 24, 2014 10:51 am
Hi I have posted this grasshopper seen at the Cedar Ridge Preserve in Dallas TX. Can you help to id? evidently there are not very many people on iNat thart are Grasshopper experts
Thank you in advance for your felp
Signature: Deborah Nelson
We responded to comments first today and we noticed you submitted a comment on a different posting and we requested that you send images using our standard form, and at that time we did not realize you had already done it. We believe this is Say’s Grasshopper subspecies, Spharagemon equale equale, based on this image on BugGuide.
Thank you for your help. I did not see the standard submission form until I after I had already sent the first email request.
Myself and one other person in Tarrant county were guessing it was a Mottled Sand Grasshopper (Spharagemon collare) … She had seen one in another park recently. Neither of us are bug experts and admit we know almost nothing about grasshoppers except being able to distinguish it as a grasshopper. I am amazed at how many there are!
Thank you for the ID of: Say’s Grasshopper subspecies, Spharagemon equale equale
I appreciate all you do.
Letter 6 – Slant Faced Grasshopper from South Africa
Subject: Long, Thin, Light Green Bug
Location: South Africa, Western Cape
February 15, 2013 7:40 am
I have looked all around to find out what type of bug this is, but I haven’t been successful. I was wondering if you could tell me what this is. Please forgive the poor taken photo’s, but I was forced to keep it in a container. It is a very jumpy one. That is why I reckon it is a locust of some sort. It is currently summer here in South Africa.
Signature: – Interested Teenager
Dear Interested Teenager,
This is some species of Grasshopper. It appears to be one of the Conehead Grasshoppers. We need to do additional research on this matter. Locusts are Grasshoppers that travel in swarms, so this solitary species would not be considered a Locust.
Letter 7 – Plains Lubber Grasshoppers
Subject: New Mexico Grasshoppers
Location: Southwestern New Mexico (Luna County)
September 5, 2013 6:53 pm
Hi, We’ve been experiencing an explosion of these grasshoppers following a wetter than usual monsoon season. They are actively engaged in mating at the moment, and I suspect that the hundreds I’ve seen on my land will soon become thousands. I really like their coloration, but can’t identify them. I’m familiar with the Barber Pole (AKA Rainbow or Painted) Grasshoppers from Arizona, but these are quite different. The average adult size is from 2.5” to 3” in length. Thanks!
These large, colorful, flightless Grasshoppers are called Plains Lubber Grasshoppers, Brachystola magna, and according to BugGuide: “Often appears locally in huge numbers for a season or two in areas where few were seen for many years, only to ‘disappear’ again the following year.”
Letter 8 – Plains Lubber Grasshoppers
Subject: Unknown Lubber Grasshopper
Location: Hatch, NM
September 8, 2013 8:33 pm
I came across millions of these grasshoppers on the road today. I was driving from T or C NM and in Hatch, NM I saw these big grasshoppers on the road and decided to take 4 (to male to female). I research many bugs including grasshoppers and couldnt find anything about these except that they are Lubber Grasshoppers but i want to know the specific type. Please help.
A few days ago, we posted some photos of Plains Lubber Grasshoppers, Brachystola magna, which were also reported from New Mexico. According to BugGuide: “ [They] Often appears locally in huge numbers for a season or two in areas where few were seen for many years, only to ‘disappear’ again the following year.”
Letter 9 – Possibly Grasshopper from Mexico
Subject: Large strange ”bug”?
Location: Taxco, Mexico
August 3, 2012 12:55 pm
My friend was in Taxco, Mexico last month. She heard a whirring sound and saw this.She was photographing an old church…She says it was very large, (about 10 inches long)and when she noticed it and raised her camera it flew backwards, still facing her.She said the legs were limp, but when it noticed her attention they became more active, and ”filled out”. We are stumped! I thought maybe a large cicada?
looks more like a grasshopper.
Hi there, sorry to “bug” 😉 you but with transparent wings? hovering above that little cabinet? granted it was a quick encounter, but Margaret is a very practical person, not given to exaggeration, she said it was very large.
The photo is of very low resolution and the hovering bug is very tiny in the frame. We based our guess, and that is all it is is a guess, on the apparent size and shape of the hind legs as well as the size that was indicated. There are very large Grasshoppers in Mexico and this Tropidacris species from our archive is four inches long which would give it an 8 inch wingspread. Here is another letter from our archive that indicates a length of 20 centimeters. We based our response on the size indicated, the shape of the legs and the location in Southern Mexico. We might be wrong, but we have no other guesses as to what this might be. Here is a National Geographicphoto of locusts in flight in Mexico. Locust is a common name for Grasshoppers that swarm. This photo should give you some idea of what a Grasshopper will look like in flight.
Letter 10 – Possibly Rainbow Grasshopper
Subject: grasshopper ID
Location: near Sedona, AZ
October 16, 2014 11:03 am
Hoping you’ll ID this gorgeous grasshopper I saw near Sedona, AZ, at Crescent Moon Ranch picnic area, in early Oct 2014.
Signature: Curious Ellen
Letter 11 – Possibly Toad Grasshopper from Morocco
Subject: Morocco Cricket ID
Location: Tahgdilt Track, Morocco
April 13, 2016 11:18 am
Whilst on holiday in Morocco last week, I photographed this intriguing cricket on the Tahgdilt Track (near Boumalne du Dades). Any ideas on which species it is please?
Though common names for insects differ depending upon many factors, in North America, Crickets are different Orthopterans than this Grasshopper in the suborder Caelifera. We believe, based on this image posted to Loretta Steyn’s Images, this might be a Toad Grasshopper in the family Pamphagidae. Getty Images has an image identified as being in the genus Eremotettix that also looks quite similar to your image. The Getty Image was taken by Katydid expert Piotr Naskrecki, who frequently helps us with Katydid identifications, and we will try to contact him to see if he can verify the identification of your Grasshopper.
Letter 12 – Possibly Two Striped Grasshopper
Subject: Grasshopper – Immature – Montgomery County, OH
Location: Carriage Hill Metro Park – Montgomery County, OH
September 2, 2013 6:44 pm
Have narrowed this grasshopper down to the Melanopus family. Can you provide any more specific information on the species?
Signature: Christopher Collins
Melanoplus (correct spelling) is a genus, not a family. The family is Acrididae and that is a much broader term that includes all Short-Horned Grasshoppers. Your individual looks very similar to this image of a Two Striped Grasshopper, Melanoplus bivittatus, from BugGuide, or this image, also from BugGuide. Based on the photos posted to BugGuide, there is much variability in coloration and markings of the Two Striped Grasshopper. BugGuide states: “This is a very common and sometimes destructive species. Its sometimes rather urban habitats plus bold patterning and large size tend to get it noticed more than most grasshopper species.”
Letter 13 – Possibly Wrinkled Grasshopper from Texas
Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 11:51 AM
Earlier this month I was trying to take photographs of birds when I saw this insect land in front of me. I assume that it’s a grasshopper and not a katydid. It was on the ground at the entrance to a field adjacent to parkland and close to houses in a suburb of Austin, Texas. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take a picture of the sunny side of the insect because the entrance gate to the field prevented me from taking a picture from that side. By the way, I’m now back in France where I live!
Scofield Farms Drive, Pflugerville, Austin, TX
This is definitely a Grasshopper and not a Katydid. We believe it may be in the subfamily Oedipodinae, the Band-winged Grasshoppers, and it looks similar to Encoptolophus costalis which is pictured on BugGuide and ranges in Texas, but we are not certain. We feel it looks even more similar to the Wrinkled Grasshopper, Hippiscus ocelote which can also be viewed on BugGuide. We suspect the species name “ocelote” may refer to the wing spotting resembling that of an ocelot. We will contact Eric Eaton to see if he is able to assist in this identification.
Letter 14 – Rain Locust from South Africa
Geographic location of the bug: Rietvlei Nature Reserve, Pretoria, South Africa
Time: 08:05 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Would appreciate help with the ID of this interesting Grasshopper. Have tried several websites but no luck.
How you want your letter signed: Grasshopper
Letter 15 – Rainbow Bush Locust from Madagascar
Grasshopper/Locust From Madagasar
Sat, Dec 27, 2008 at 10:41 AM
Hi bugman, in November 2007 i went into the mountains of madagascar and saw many strange insects, the only insect that i couldnt identify was a large colourful Grasshopper/locust looking thing, it was about 10cm long with big red butterfly like wings. I have seen a similar photo on your website and was wondering whether you have managed to positively identify this amazing creature?
Mountains of Madagascar
This is a toxic species of grasshopper in the family Pyrgomorphidae, known commonly as a Gaudy Grasshopper. We posted a nearly identical specimen in January 2006 and it was identified as Phymateus saxosus with common names Rainbow Bush Locust, Rainbow Milkweed Locust, or Giant Milkweek Locust. The toxicity comes from eating milkweed. Thanks for sending us your gorgeous photo.
Letter 16 – Red Shanked Grasshopper
Subject: What grasshopper species?
Location: Socorro County, New Mexico
May 27, 2013 1:39 pm
Hello, Can you tell what species this is? It seems unusually checkered with this bold design. And the inside of its legs are bright red orange. When resting, this color is hidden. It was in southern New Mexico at 6500 ft elevation in pinyon juniper grassland.
Signature: Mary Ray
Dear Mary Ray,
We matched your grasshopper to images of the Red Shanked Grasshopper, Xanthippus corallipes, thanks to images posted to BugGuide, where it is described as: “A highly variable stocky and usually large species, with much regional variation in size, wing length, and in the nature of the spot pattern of the body. Almost always with at least some red coloring on inner hind femur and the hind tibiae.”
That is sooooo awesome to know! Thank you so much! And so fast on a holiday too!
Letter 17 – Robust Toad Lubber
Location: Big Bend National Park, the Dagger Flats
March 21, 2011 1:30 am
I was just on a field trip with my geology class in Big Bend National Park over spring break. While I was taking my field final this little guy hopped past me. At first I thought he was some sort of reptile but I looked closer and he has 6 legs. He was also a bit dusty. I’m just curious about what he is.
Signature: Abby B
This grasshopper is a Robust Toad Lubber, Phrynotettix robustus, which we identified on BugGuide. They are described as: “Stocky broad-bodied grasshoppers, very ‘pebble-like’, with very short wings (much shorter in females) behind the large shield-like pronotum. Color is usually pale whitish, tan, or grayish, often with scattered darker spots or mottling.” Greg Lasley’s website provides this information: “The Robust Toad Lubber (Phrynotettix robustus) is a species of grasshopper in the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico. It is sometimes simply called Toad Lubber, and inhabits canyon floors and other regions in desert habitats.”
Letter 18 – Robust Toad Lubbers
My son and I came across these two interesting looking grasshoppers during a hike in the Chihuahuan desert surrounding El Paso Texas. I have searched the web and can find nothing that looks like these. They appear to be in a juvenile stage, although they are approximately one and a quarter inches long and three fourths of an inch across. Thank you for your help identifying these critters.
We are mystified and turning to Eric Eaton for assistance. Eric quickly responded: ” The other two ‘hoppers from Houston are robust toad lubbers, Phrynotettix robustus. They range just into western Texas, north into southern New Mexico. They are adults, just wingless stone (boulder?) mimics:-) Neat find, nice images! Eric”
I was looking at your “What’s that bug” page and saw someone sent in a picture of some toad lubbers from my neck of the woods. Although P. robustus is in the area, these could also be Phrynotettix tshivavensis (Haldeman). The only way to tell them apart is to look on the inner hind femora which is distinctly black in tshivavensis (the one on the left might by robustus) or compare the relative sizes (tshivavensis is usually smaller). These both look like males. Both species commonly have small stubs of wings. P. tshivavensis is known as the Chihuahuan toad lubber. Good to see someone else looking at insects in El Paso without a can of RAID!
University of Texas at El Paso
Letter 19 – Shieldback Locust from South Africa
Location: South Africa
December 11, 2013 10:17 am
Hi I found this grasshopper in our garden today. About 8 cm long about as thick as a man’s middle finger. Where is this garden? IN THE Kalahari Desert (South Africa) in a small town called Askham (Northern cape province) Never seen one like this before. Can you help with the identity thereof please
The two features that make your grasshopper really distinctive are the flattened antennae and the ridge along the thorax, and we searched unsuccessfully for some time prior to discovering iSpot Southern Africa – your place to share nature where we learned about the Shieldback Locusts in the family Pamphagidae. There are many similar images there. We hope a family identification is sufficient as we do not have the skills to identify your individual any further. There is also a nice image of a winged individual on FlickR. We don’t know if you have photographed a nymph or if it is a flightless species.
Letter 20 – Short-Horned Grasshopper: Spharagemon equale
Subject: I <3 this grasshopper (locust?)
Location: Coryell County, Texas
July 1, 2013 11:23 pm
This grasshopper was hanging around the front door this afternoon. I love the heart-shaped pattern. What a face! Although this bug may be to blame for the large holes eaten out of the amaryllis leaves, it looks fascinatingly prehistoric. Breezy, cool (!) day at 80 degrees.
We have a memory of posting a similar image in the past, but we are unable to locate it in our archives. We have not had any luck with a species ID on the internet either, however, we did find two similar images, both from Texas. One photo is on a forum called Texas Bowhunter and the other on Poetry From The Starlite Cafe. Perhaps one of our readers can assist with this.
Update: July 5, 2013
Ellen provided a comment that David J. Ferguson at BugGuide identified this Shorthorned Grasshopper as Spharagemon equale.
Letter 21 – Slant-Faced Grasshopper from Kuala Lumpur
Please help me identify this bug !!!
hi there !! I’ve caught two bugs here but i can’t find their family name , genus, order and scientific name … i came across your website today and was wondering whether you can help me identify them ?? thanks alot .. !!! sorry i forgot to tell you that im writing from kuala lumpur , malaysia. i caught the stick-like insect near a pond somewhere around my house. it camouflages itself n looks like a grass. while the other bug was caught from a place call genting highlands. i found it in a carpark near a hotel. i think it came from the forest somewhere near the hotel. thanks alot. your help is very much appreciated. if you cant identify them then its ok.
We checked with both Eric Eaton and Paul who has assisted us with grasshoppers before. Both agree your grasshopper is a Slant-Faced Grasshopper. Paul says: “I can’t tell you the genus or species for this hopper, but it’s definitely in Acrididae, the short horned grasshopper family, and in the subfamily Gomphocerinae, the slant faced grasshoppers. That’s the best I can do.”
Letter 22 – Slender Mexican Grasshopper
I found this bug while I was burning the trash. It was hopping away when I found it.Can you tell me what it is. Sorry for the bag picture camera was going dead.
Looks like the silhouette of a Slender Mexican Grasshopper, Leptysma mexicana. It reaches about 1 1/4 inches in length and occurs in small numbers in various parts of California.
But I live in Louisiana then what could it be?
A related species, Leptysma marginicollis lives in the South.
Letter 23 – South African Bush Locust
What’s this Hopper?
This chap was spotted in Johannesburg, South Africa. He’s approx 2.5 inches in length… Please excuse the pic quality…
This is one of the Lubber Grasshoppers, but we don’t know the South African species. According to Eric Eaton: “The “lubber” from Africa is something in the family of bush locusts, Pyrgomorphidae. Might be fairly easy to ID from there since most species are very colorful. “
Letter 24 – South African Gaudy Grasshopper
Yippeee! 1st contribution
Hi there, thanks so much for your reply to my other mails. AHA! I think this one might be a ” Phymateus leprosies”