Grasshoppers are fascinating insects that can be found all over the world. They are known for their unique jumping ability, which is achieved primarily through their highly-specialized legs. When observing a grasshopper, it’s easy to notice that they have three pairs of legs, making a total of six legs.
Each pair of legs has a specific function and adapts to perform different tasks. The first and second pair of legs are relatively small, mainly responsible for walking and holding onto various surfaces. Meanwhile, the hind pair is much larger and designed for jumping, allowing the grasshopper to quickly propel itself over considerable distances.
The anatomical structure of grasshopper legs is quite intricate. The hind legs are well-equipped with muscles, allowing for powerful jumps to evade predators or reach new feeding grounds. These legs also possess distinctive features such as enlarged femur and tibia, which further contribute to their impressive jumping capability.
Grasshoppers are insects that belong to the suborder Caelifera. They have six legs, with the hind pair being much larger than the first and second pair due to their adaptation for jumping1. Their body is divided into three main parts: head, thorax, and abdomen2. They also possess two pairs of wings, differing in shape, structure, and function1.
Color and Size
- Males: Usually smaller than females3
- Females: Larger than males; possess sharp points at end of abdomen for laying eggs3
In general, female grasshoppers are larger than males. For example, females have sharp points at the end of their abdomen that help them lay eggs underground3.
|Feature||Male Grasshoppers||Female Grasshoppers|
|Wing Structure||Special structures for sound3||None mentioned|
|Abdomen||None mentioned||Sharp points for laying eggs3|
Legs and Jumping Capabilities
Number of Legs
Grasshoppers, like all insects, have six legs. These legs are divided into three pairs, with each pair serving a different function in the grasshopper’s movement and activities.
Functions of Hind Legs
The most notable of these legs are the hind legs, which are much larger and stronger than the other two pairs. These legs are specifically adapted for jumping, allowing grasshoppers to cover great distances in meadows and fields. Key features of hind legs include:
- Enlarged femurs
- Distinctive markings and coloration
- Long tibia with spines for gripping surfaces
Grasshoppers use their hind legs to generate a powerful force for jumping. Their strong muscles and unique joint structure allow them to create an acute angle between the thigh and shin, enabling a catapult-like action. Here’s a brief overview of how grasshoppers jump:
- Grasshopper contracts powerful leg muscles.
- Acute angle between thigh and shin is created, storing energy in extensor muscles.
- Rapid release of stored energy propels the insect forward with great force.
In addition to their hind legs, grasshoppers also use their wings for short flights, further enhancing their mobility in their natural habitat.
Grasshoppers’ jumping capabilities, combined with their six legs and strong mandibles, make them an agile and versatile insect that can thrive in various environments, ensuring their survival and continuation as a species.
Grasshopper Diet and Predators
Grasshoppers are primarily herbivores. They consume various plants for their diet, including leaves, flowers, and stems. Their food preferences may differ depending on the species. Some examples of plants they eat are:
Grasshoppers require protein to grow and molt, which they usually obtain from the plants they consume.
Grasshoppers have numerous predators in their environment. These predators can be classified into three categories – arthropods, birds, and mammals. Some common predators include:
- Arthropods: Spiders, wasps, and robber flies
- Birds: Turkeys, chickens, and other insectivorous birds
- Mammals: Rodents and some reptiles
A comparison table of common grasshopper predators:
In the past, flocks of turkeys and chickens were sometimes used for grasshopper control due to their effectiveness in reducing grasshopper populations (source).
Lifecycle and Reproduction
Grasshoppers undergo a process called gradual metamorphosis, with three main stages:
- Egg: It all starts here. Females lay the eggs in a special structure called a pod, in the soil or vegetation.
- Nymph: Hatched from eggs, these immature grasshoppers resemble the adults but have no wings. They go through a series of molts, growing larger each time.
- Adult: Finally, when they develop fully functional wings, they are considered adults.
Mating and Egg Laying
Grasshoppers mate after becoming adults, and their reproductive organs get activated:
- Females: They possess an ovipositor, enabling them to lay eggs in the habitat, typically soil or vegetation.
- Males: Their role is to fertilize the eggs. They use special structures to hold and position the females during mating.
For example, the Eastern lubber grasshopper lays eggs in a pod, usually in a place with lots of food and an adequate environment for the nymphs to thrive.
|Wings||Not functional||Fully functional|
|Reproductive organs||Not active||Active|
In summary, grasshoppers have a simple life cycle, starting as eggs, developing into nymphs, and finally becoming adults capable of reproduction. Their mating and egg-laying habits are vital for their survival in a variety of habitats.
Notable Grasshopper Species
The Differential Grasshopper is a shiny, brownish-yellow insect, growing up to 1¾ inches long. Adults exhibit a unique feature:
- Hind legs with black chevrons (v-shapes)
The Lubber Grasshopper is well-known for its large size and vibrant coloration. Some interesting characteristics include:
- Inability to fly due to small wings
- Can excrete a toxic foam as a defense mechanism
Red-Legged Grasshoppers sport a distinctive feature:
- Bright red hind legs, contrasting with a green or brown body
Texas A&M University’s resource highlights the Two-Striped Grasshopper’s features:
- Yellow body with two dark stripes
- Good short-distance flyers, supported by long hind legs
|Grasshopper Species||Color||Size (approx.)||Unique Features|
|Differential Grasshopper||Brownish-yellow||1¾ inches||Black chevrons on hind legs|
|Lubber Grasshopper||Various||Large||Toxic foam, small wings|
|Red-Legged Grasshopper||Green or brown body, red legs||Medium||Red hind legs|
|Two-Striped Grasshopper||Yellow with dark stripes||Medium||Good short-distance flying ability|
Grasshopper Management and Impact
Impact on Food Crops
Grasshoppers are known to have a significant impact on food crops. They can consume up to 50% of their body weight in forage daily, leading to reduced crop yields.
This consumption has adverse effects on farmers and the agriculture industry.
Methods of Control
There are several methods available to control grasshopper populations, both chemical and non-chemical. Here’s a comparison table:
|Chemical control||Effective, faster results||Potential environmental harm, harmful to non-target species|
|Biological control||Environmentally friendly, targets specific species||Slower results, may require higher initial investment|
Some of the common biological control methods include:
- Predators: Birds, blister beetles, and robber flies.
- Fungal and bacterial diseases
For a more natural approach, maintaining a healthy ecosystem with a diverse range of predators and natural enemies assists in managing grasshopper populations.
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 – Unknown Grasshopper from Namibia
Huge unknown Namibian grasshopper
Sun, Jan 25, 2009 at 12:08 PM
Hi, i came across this huge grasshopper (locust?) in the Zaris Mountains in Namibia. It must have been close to 10cm long, the biggest hopper i have ever seen! Can you help me identify the species? Can it be some kind of desert locust?
We are going to post your image before we begin trying to identify your large Namibian Grasshopper. It appears to be a flightless species unless it is a nymph that is still growing.
Comment from Eric Eaton
Monday, January 26, 2009
I have no idea what kind of grasshopper that is from Namibia, there is not even anything like it in my Field Guide to Insects of South Africa (by Mike Picker, Charles Griffiths, and Alan Weaving).
Letter 2 – Unknown Grasshopper from Israel
Unknown grasshopper from Israel
April 12, 2010
I saw lots of these grasshoppers on my hike to Eastern Samaria (north-east of Jerusalem, Israel) on April 9-10, 2010. I had no luck in finding a name for them. Both nymphs and adults have distinctive yellow and black markings on the inner thighs of the rear (large) pair of legs, and the adults have reddish hind wings. Otherwise they have excellent camoflage as rocks.
Eastern Samaria, Israel
We are going to try to contact Piotr Naskrecki, an expert in Katydids, a related group of insects, to see if he recognizes this desert dwelling Grasshopper.
I know I sent lots of bug pictures, it was that kind of hike. Spring, everything is alive and active before it gets too hot here. I was hoping you’d have the time to post two or three of my submissions. I never expected you to post so many! So again, thank you! And thanks for the help in identification. I try to do the research before I send them, but I’m not always successful. There are a few websites that help, but no really comprehensive guide to Israeli or Middle-Eastern insects.
Letter 3 – Unknown Grasshopper from Pakistan is Pradka Grasshopper
May 30, 2010
After a lot of useless search on the net, I’m going to post the picture of this grasshopper for identification. It’s commonly found in the months of August and September. Mainly feed on plant “Urochloa maxima” in family Poaceae.
Any help in identification will be highly appreciate.
We need to research your beautiful Grasshopper. Meanwhile, we will post the image in the hope that one of our readers is able to assist in the identification.
Karl provides an identification
June 1, 2010
Hi Daniel and Birdy:
I am almost certain that this lovely grasshopper belongs to the genus Heiroglyphus (Acrididae). The most characteristic feature of the genus is the 3 or 4 grooves (sulci) that run vertically along the sides of the pronotum, joining across the top. These sulci are usually but not always lined in black. I looked at several keys and the only species that has this particular arrangement of lined and unlined sulci is H. nigrorepletus. The black lines joining all sulci at the top and the first and third along the bottom are especially distinctive (the second sulci does not extend down along the sides). Several species have the blue tibia with white black-tipped spines, including H. nigrorepletus. The common name in India and Pakistan is the Phadka Grasshopper, and it is considered to be a pest where it occurs in agricultural areas (rice, sugar cane, hemp, maize and sorghum). It apparently swarms occasionally but this is not typical. There are very good descriptions and accounts in Kirby, 1914 (as H. bettoni) and Mason, 1973. The latter is particularly good and both can be downloaded as PDF files. I was able to find only one online image of what I believe is the same species (unfortunately no identification given) that shows a mating pair. Birdy, the one you posted looks like an immature late instar male. Your excellent photo was most helpful. Regards. Karl
Letter 4 – Unknown Grasshopper from Portugal is Immature Migratory Locust
Location: Beja, Portugal
August 13, 2010 12:22 pm
Hello from Portugal. I need help identifying this grasshopper. I don’t know if it is a nymph (juvenile). It was found in Beja, Portugal, near water. Lengh was aproximately 1,5 cm.
Thanks in advance.
We don’t get many requests from Portugal, so we are very determined to identify your grasshopper. It does appear to be a nymph, both because of the size of the wings and the size of the specimen. We tried a web search of grasshopper Portugal and found a nice Flickr page posted by Valter Jacinto, but your individual does not appear to be represented among his numerous photographs. Two of his images in particular have similarities to your specimen. The first is labeled Gafanhoto // Toad Grasshopper (Eumigus ayresi), female. The second is labeled Gafanhoto da família Pamphagidae // Toad Grasshopper (Acinipe sp.), male nymph. We wonder if your specimen might be classified among the Toad Grasshoppers in the family Pamphagidae. We will post your letter and photo in our featured section and we hope one of our readers can supply some assistance.
Piotr Naskrecki provided an inentification
Incidentally, the unknown grasshopper from Portugal is a nymph of the migratory locust (Locusta migratoria.)
Letter 5 – Unknown Grasshopper from Mexico: Proctolabus mexicanus
Subject: Red, blue, yellow and green grasshopper
Location: Morelos, Mexico
October 3, 2016 7:38 pm
Hi. I was travelling in and around Mexico city and photographed this very brightly coloured grasshopper and wondered if anyone could identify it for me please. Found in tropical dry forest.
This is such a beautiful Grasshopper that we thought it would not be too difficult to identify, however, we spent a bit of time searching for its identity yesterday to no avail, so we are posting it as unidentified and we hope to elicit some assistance from our readership.
Letter 6 – Unknown Grasshopper Nymph from South Africa
Geographic location of the bug: Napier Western Cape SA
Time: 03:27 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Please can you ID this fella, have tried various other sites and nobody is sure….thanks
How you want your letter signed: Don’t mind.
This is definitely a Grasshopper in the family Acrididae, and it is an immature nymph. We will attempt to provide you with a species identification.
Letter 7 – Unknown Grasshopper Nymphs from Costa Rica
Subject: Grasshopper identification
Geographic location of the bug: Monteverde Rain Forest, Monteverde, Costa Rica
Time: 10:58 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman: Could you please identify these insects
How you want your letter signed: 7Song
These are immature Grasshoppers and immature individuals often look very different from adults, and there is often. We will make an effort to provide you with an actual species identification.
Thank you Daniel
I figured they were juveniles but still couldn’t find their species. Thank you for any help you give with this and for your help with bug identification in general.
Letter 8 – Unknown Grasshopper from Oaxaca
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
December 2, 2013 12:25 pm
Any information you can give me would be really appreciated and help me with my project of gathering words in the Zapotec language.
The following pictures were taken in the town of San Cristobal Amatlan, Oaxaca, Mexico on December 7, 2011. The grasshopper body measures about 1.5 centimeters, the back legs are maybe 2 (centimeters or longer). The back is brown, the ovipositor green striped with black. Legs are blue, orange, and yellow. The face and antenae are blue, eyes are brown. Very pretty!
Based on the size of this individual and its lack of wings, we believe this is a nymph. What you are calling its striped ovipositor is actually its abdomen. Sadly, we did not find any images in our web searching that match your individual, however we did find many photos of Chapulines, Grasshoppers that are roasted and prepared as food in Oaxaca, Mexico. We don’t normally link to Wikipedia, but in searching for a link on Chapulines, our other numerous choices were blogs, many of which might not be reliable, so we made an exception. We don’t believe your Grasshopper is the species that is eaten, but there may be numerous species that are eaten. We looked through many images of living Grasshoppers from Mexico, and we cannot provide an identification for you. Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck.
What is the Zapotec word for Grasshopper? Is there a verbal distinction between the living Grasshopper and the roasted treat? Though we are not certain if your species is one of the Grasshoppers popularly consumed in Oaxaca, we suspect it is probably edible and we are tagging it as an Edible Insect.
Thank you for trying! I guess I’ll have to just say “type of grasshopper”. In this particular Zapotec there are a number of words indicating the particular kind of grasshopper: xench, kik, mbeso, ngwxiix, ngwley yer, ngwley nil, yeramas, ngsok, mbertang, mberzeyy. The one I asked you about is ngwley nil. I don’t know if this particular type is edible or not. I’ll have to ask when I get a chance. Some people in the Amatlan area do eat certain grasshoppers but it isn’t common.
Thanks for setting me straight regarding the abdomen. Ha ha. Obviously, I’m not very good when it comes to insects.
Letter 9 – Unknown Grasshopper from South Africa
Subject: South African Grasshopper
Location: False Bay, Western Cape, South Africa
December 28, 2013 4:54 am
I’m having trouble identifying this little chap I found in my garden – he is only a couple of centimetres long, and nothing in my insect book looks quite like him.
I’m new to the Bug world, so not sure yet quite how diverse the colours get within some classifications, and would appreciate a definitive identification !
This is an immature Grasshopper, and it is generally adult insects that are picture in guide books, which may be the reason you are having difficulty in your identification. Alas, we haven’t the necessary skills with South African species to be able to provide you with an identification, but perhaps one of our readers will write in with something helpful. Your photos are quite beautiful.
Letter 10 – Unknown Guatemalan Grasshopper
My name is Steve… And I am a bugoholic. A few years ago during a trip to Guatemala, this little guy suddenly apeared. Forward to the present. The last couple days have been spent looking for his scientific name. Suddenly your website appeared. Could you please help? I’ve included a picture and a small map showing the location. Really looking forward to your response. Sincerely,
We often have problems identifying our own grasshoppers in the contiguous United States. The antennae are one of the most important identification features, and sadly, your image crops into the antennae. WE will post your photo and see if anyone writes in with an identification.
Letter 11 – Wingless Grasshopper from Panama
Subject: Grasshopper (?) from Panama
March 4, 2014 6:13 pm
I photographed this -what I believe to be some kind of- grasshopper in Central Panama last month. It was sitting next to a similar looking mate with orange legs. They could both jump very far, that’s why I don’t think they were katydids. What makes me doubt my conclusion are the long and unusual antennae. Could you help with a positive ID? Would be glad to send you the picture of the other specimen if that helps. Thanks again!
We are relatively certain that this is an Orthopteran, a member of the insect order that includes Grasshoppers, but we don’t believe this is a Grasshopper. We are going to contact Piotr Naskrecki, who is an expert in Katydids, another family within the straight winged order Orthoptera.
Piotr Naskrecki Responds
This is wingless grasshopper of the subfamily Rhytidchrotinae (Acrididae), most likely Piezops or Opaon.
Letter 12 – Unknown Spanish Grasshopper: subfamily Truxalinae or Acridinae
We’ve been trying to identify this strange grasshopper for almost two years but haven’t been able to, so we had high hopes when we found your web site a couple of weeks ago. We can tell you that we saw it in southern Spain. It was about 2" long and if it hadn’t moved we would never have spotted it. There doesn’t seem to be anything like it in your albums I know that you’re getting hundreds of requests at this time of year, so I just hope I’m one of the lucky ones that you have time to identify !
We know that you have requested this identification several times. The quality of the image is not ideal and it does not have a high enough resolution to see important identification features. We tried a search of Spanish insects but without luck. Perhaps one of our readers will recognize your well camouflaged specimen.
(07/26/2007) Courtesy of Julian Donahue
Hi Daniel, … BTW, farther down on WTB, the “Unknown Spanish Grasshopper” is in the family Acrididae, either subfamily Truxalinae or Acridinae, both of which are very similar in appearance and both occur in the southern Palearctic (e.g., Spain). They are separated by presence or absence of a stridulatory mechanism: Truxalinae the stridulatory mechanism is a serrated ridge on the inner side of the hind femur and sharp convex radial and medial veins of the tegmen (e.g., leathery forewing). Members of the subfamily Acridinae have no stridulatory mechanism. Attached is a diagram of of the truxaline stridulatory serration on internal side of the hind femur (note scale!). From Fig. 69, p. 151, from Dirsh, V.M. 1975. Classification of the Acridomorphoid Insects. E.W. Classey Ltd.
Unknown Spanish Grasshopper: subfamily Truxalinae or Acridinae (07/24/2007)
Reply |Reply to all |Forward |Print |Delete |Show original Greetings,
This whacky looking creature appears to be a Mediterranean Slant-faced Grasshopper Acrida ungarica. I saw a couple in Spain last week – including one that swam across the swimming pool before being rescued! Hope this helps,
Letter 13 – White-Lined Bird Grasshopper
Location: Madera Canyon, AZ
November 4, 2016 2:18 pm
Many different species of grasshopper in the multible biomes of this southeastern part of Arizona near the Sky Islands and in Madera Canyon. A mix of oak woodlands, succulents and pines in the upper region. I’ve tried to ID them online, but nothing looks quite what I photographed. One naturalist said one was a differential grasshopper, but again I didn’t see the resemblance.
Signature: Thank you, Leanne Grossman
We are very confident that we have identified your third image, the only true Grasshopper, as a White-Lined Bird Grasshopper, Schistocerca albolineata, a species found in Arizona and well represented on BugGuide. It is described on BugGuide as: “This species is dark olive green or brown to black, with contrasting pale yellowish markings, and bold contrasting markings on the hind femora, with the hind tibiae red to black.”
Thank you again. I really appreaciate your thoroughness.
But I don’t understand taxonomists!?! — where are the white lines? I would have named this a tiger bird grasshopper for its black and gold stripes — but then no one asked me, did they?
I just submitted one more grasshopper to ID.