Painted Grasshopper: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

Introducing the Painted Grasshopper, a fascinating and visually striking insect. These colorful creatures belong to the grasshopper family, known for their distinctive hopping and flying abilities.

Painted Grasshoppers are easily recognized by their vibrant colors and intricate patterns. These features not only charm observers but also serve as a warning to predators about their unpalatable nature. Being part of our ecosystem, they are essential for maintaining balance and providing food for larger predators.

Physical Characteristics

Colors and Patterns

The painted grasshopper is known for its vibrant and striking coloration. These grasshoppers typically display a mixture of bold colors including:

  • Red: Often seen on their legs and wings.
  • Yellow: Found on their body and usually combined with the red and blue color patterns.
  • Blue: Commonly appears on the body sections or along the edges of their wings.
  • Black body: The main body color that contrasts with the bright colors, creating a visually appealing pattern.

These colors and patterns serve as a warning to predators, indicating that the painted grasshoppers might be toxic or unpalatable.

Size and Body Structure

Painted grasshoppers are characterized by their unique body structure, which includes:

  • Size: They are medium-sized grasshoppers, with adult body lengths typically ranging between 2.5 and 3.5 cm.
  • Spines: A notable feature of these grasshoppers is the presence of small spines on their legs, which may assist in their grip and movement.
Feature Painted Grasshopper
Body length 2.5 – 3.5 cm
Spines on legs Present

The combination of stunning colors, patterns, and distinct body structure make painted grasshoppers an intriguing species, easily recognizable in their natural habitats.

Habitat and Distribution

Regions and Countries

The Painted Grasshopper is mainly found in the southwestern United States, Mexico, and parts of Canada. Specifically, it occurs in states like New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. It is also present in Northern Mexico.

Types of Habitats

The Painted Grasshopper thrives in various habitats, including:

  • Grasslands
  • Prairies
  • The Great Plains
  • Deserts
  • Desert grasslands
  • Shortgrass prairies

This diverse range of habitats gives the Painted Grasshopper flexibility and adaptability in its environment.

Example:

In the Great Plains region, the Painted Grasshopper can be found living in shortgrass prairies alongside other species of grasshoppers.

Comparison Table:

Habitat Examples of Regions
Grasslands Texas, New Mexico, Arizona
Prairies Great Plains, North America
Deserts Arizona, Northern Mexico
Desert Grasslands New Mexico, Texas
Shortgrass Prairie Great Plains, United States and Canada

In conclusion, the Painted Grasshopper has a vast distribution and a remarkable ability to adapt to various types of habitats across North America.

Behavior and Lifestyle

Movement and Jumping

Painted grasshoppers, like most grasshoppers, are known for their jumping abilities. They use their powerful hind legs to leap large distances, which helps them avoid predators and find food sources.

  • Jumping distance: Painted grasshoppers can jump up to 20 times their body length.

These insects are also adept at flying, making them more versatile in their movements.

Seasonal Activity

Painted grasshoppers are most active during the warmer months of spring and autumn. During these times, they can be found in fields and gardens, seeking out their preferred food sources.

  • Generations per year: There are typically one to two generations of painted grasshoppers each year.

They prefer warm temperatures and often thermoregulate by basking in sunlight or seeking shade as needed.

Diet and Foraging

Painted grasshoppers are herbivores, feeding primarily on grasses and other plants. Their diet includes a variety of plant species, such as alfalfa, corn, and other forage crops.

  • Feeding preferences: They prefer to feed on young, tender plants.

As foragers, they play an important role in maintaining the balance of plant life in their habitats. However, when populations become too large, they can also cause significant damage to crops.

  • Example: In some areas, painted grasshopper infestations can lead to severe crop loss, particularly in cornfields.

Overall, painted grasshoppers are fascinating insects with unique behaviors and adaptations that allow them to survive and thrive in their environments. Their jumping abilities, seasonal activity, and diet all contribute to their fascinating lifestyle. The table below compares painted grasshoppers with some other grasshopper species.

Grasshopper Species Painted Grasshopper Crickets Katydids
Jumping Ability High Moderate Moderate
Activity Season Spring and Autumn Year-Round Year-Round
Thermoregulate Yes Yes Yes
Diet Grasses, Alfalfa, Corn Mostly Algae, Decaying Plants Plant Material, Insects
Primary Predators Birds, Reptiles, Small Mammals Birds, Reptiles, Small Mammals Birds, Reptiles, Small Mammals

As with other grasshoppers, populations of painted grasshoppers are typically controlled by predators such as birds, reptiles, and small mammals. As a result, they are an important part of the food chain and contribute to the overall health of ecosystems where they reside.

Defense Mechanisms

Warning Coloration

The Painted Grasshopper is known for its vibrant and colorful appearance. These bright colors serve as a form of warning coloration to predators, indicating that the grasshopper may be toxic or unpalatable. Some examples of their coloration include:

  • Bright red or orange body
  • Blue or green legs and wings
  • Yellow or black markings

This coloration helps them stand out in their environment, discouraging predators from attempting to eat them.

Aposematism

Aposematism is when an organism sports bright colors to signal to predators that they are toxic, dangerous, or unpalatable. The Painted Grasshopper employs aposematism through its eye-catching colors as a form of defense, enabling it to coexist with other creatures in its habitat.

Poison

In addition to their warning coloration and aposematism, Painted Grasshoppers are also poisonous to some predators. When ingested, they can cause nausea, vomiting, or other negative reactions, further deterring predators from trying to eat them. This poison offers the grasshopper additional protection and aids in their survival.

Reproduction and Lifespan

Eggs and Nymphs

The reproduction process of the Painted Grasshopper starts with the female laying clusters of eggs in the soil. These eggs go through a period of cooler temperatures to mature and hatch as nymphs when temperatures rise.

  • Eggs: laid in clusters beneath the soil surface
  • Nymphs: young grasshoppers that emerge after hatching

Nymphs then undergo a process called metamorphosis – a series of changes throughout their development. Painted Grasshoppers typically have five to six stages (also called instars) during this phase, with each one requiring a molt to allow further growth.

Life Expectancy

Painted Grasshoppers have a rather short lifespan compared to other insects. The adult grasshoppers emerge in spring and usually live for a few months. Their exact lifespan can vary depending on factors such as temperature and availability of food.

Comparison table: Painted Grasshopper vs. Plains Lubber Grasshopper

Painted Grasshopper Plains Lubber Grasshopper
Eggs Laid in clusters Laid in clusters
Lifespan A few months A few months

Despite their short lifespan, it’s important to note that Painted Grasshoppers can be harmful to plants as they are known to consume various types of vegetation. However, they are not as destructive as some other grasshopper species, such as the Plains Lubber Grasshopper, which feeds on numerous plant species and can damage crops.

Classification and Naming

Taxonomic Position

The Painted Grasshopper, also known as the Dactylotum bicolor, belongs to the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, and order Orthoptera. It falls under the family Acrididae and the tribe Dactylotini. Here’s a brief taxonomic breakdown:

  • Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)
  • Phylum: Arthropoda (Arthropods)
  • Class: Insecta (Hexapods)
  • Order: Orthoptera
  • Family: Acrididae
  • Tribe: Dactylotini
  • Species: Dactylotum bicolor

According to the IUCN Red List, the Painted Grasshopper is categorized as Least Concern, meaning it’s not facing any significant threat to its survival.

Common Names

The Painted Grasshopper is commonly known by alternative names such as:

  • Barber Pole Grasshopper
  • Rainbow Grasshopper

These names relate to its striking color patterns which make it stand out among other grasshopper species.

Human Interaction

Cultural References

The Painted Grasshopper, often found in Mexico and the southern parts of the United States, holds a place in various cultures. For example, it has appeared as a subject in traditional art, such as pottery and textiles. It can also be considered a symbol of nature’s beauty due to its vibrant colors.

Ecological Importance

Painted Grasshoppers play an essential role in the ecosystem as both plant consumers and prey for other species. They are known for feeding on plants such as:

  • Sunflowers
  • Ragweed
  • Dandelion

Their role in the food chain provides an important link between plant life and higher predators, such as:

  • Birds
  • Lizards
  • Rodents

According to the field guide to grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets of the United States, Painted Grasshoppers typically inhabit tall grasses, bushes, woodlands, and wetlands across their native range.

Comparison of Painted Grasshopper and Common Grasshopper:

Feature Painted Grasshopper Common Grasshopper
Color Bright and colorful Brown, gray, green
Habitat Wetlands, woodlands, grasses, bushes Grasslands, fields, meadows
Size 3 to 4 inches 1 to 3 inches

As a beautiful and ecologically important species, Painted Grasshoppers contribute to the diverse insect life found in areas such as Mexico, Virginia, and other parts of the USA. By understanding their role in the environment and appreciating their presence, we can foster a deeper connection with nature and its many inhabitants.

Diet and Plant Interactions

Preferred Plants

The Painted Grasshopper feeds on a variety of vegetation, with a preference for certain plants:

  • Baccharis wrightii (Wright’s false willow)
  • Alfalfa fields
  • Corn

These insects are found in areas with abundant plants, flowers, and water, such as deserts or cultivated lands1. The grasshopper’s body color ranges from yellowish to pale green, providing camouflage to blend in with their environment.

Plants Habitat Body color
Wright’s false willow Deserts Yellowish
Alfalfa fields Cultivated land Pale green
Corn Cultivated land Pale green

Impact on Agriculture

Although the Painted Grasshopper feeds on a variety of plants, it has a more significant impact on certain agricultural crops:

  • Corn: Damage can be caused by grasshoppers consuming leaves, reducing photosynthesis and plant growth.
  • Alfalfa: Grasshoppers may affect the yield and quality of alfalfa when feeding extensively on leaves and flowers.

It’s important to monitor and control grasshopper populations to prevent or reduce potential damage to farmlands and crop yields2.

Anatomy

Head and Sensory Organs

The Painted Grasshopper has a distinct head with large, compound eyes. Its antennae are relatively short and function as sensory organs.

  • Large, compound eyes
  • Short antennae for sensing

Thorax and Legs

The thorax supports three pairs of legs:

  • Front legs used for walking and holding food
  • Middle legs with similar functions to the front legs
  • Hind legs, much larger and designed for jumping

In addition, the thorax houses a pair of wings, helpful for short-distance flights.

Comparison table:

Front Legs Middle Legs Hind Legs
Function Walking, holding food Similar to front legs Jumping

Abdomen

The Painted Grasshopper’s abdomen is vibrant green, and contains the majority of its vital organs. The abdominal segments in males are equipped with auditory organs.

  • Vibrant green color
  • Contains vital organs
  • Males possess auditory organs within segments

Additional Information

The Painted Grasshopper is an interesting species with unique characteristics. One key aspect of their behavior is that they are polyphagous.

  • Polyphagous means they have a wide range of food they can consume.
  • For example, they might feed on different types of vegetation, such as grasses and forbs.

They also show a fascinating habit of creating burrows.

  • They dig these burrows to lay eggs or take shelter during unfavorable conditions.
  • For example, they might burrow in soil or among plant roots.

In conclusion, the Painted Grasshopper is a versatile species with interesting traits, such as being polyphagous and creating burrows for survival purposes.

Footnotes

  1. Gardening Solutions: Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers

  2. Grasshopper Control in Gardens and Small Acreages

Reader Emails

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

Letter 1 – Painted Grasshopper

 

Is this a painted grasshopper
We found this guy on our door sill in Rio Rico AZ. Are they poisonous? Thank you,
Barbara Kuzara

Hi Barbara,
You have submitted an image of a Painted Grasshopper, Dactylotum bicolor. Though many brightly colored insects, including the African Milkweed Grasshoppers, advertise toxicity with color and pattern, to the best of our knowledge, the Painted Grasshopper is not one of them. The Painted Grasshopper is also known as the Rainbow Grasshopper or Barber Pole Grasshopper according to BugGuide.

Letter 2 – Painted Grasshopper

 

Exotic colored grasshopper
I found this grasshopper on my dad’s property in Seligman, Arizona. Could you provide any information? Thanks!
Shelly

Hi Shelly,
What an adorable Painted Grasshopper. We have several images and some information on this gaily colored grasshopper on our Grasshopper page.

Letter 3 – Painted Grasshopper

 

painted grasshopper photos
Hello Bugman,
We found this painted grasshopper in our yard, Chino Valley AZ. Was looking for information about it when we found your site. Wish I’d used a tripod but the pictures are still pretty sharp
David

Hi David,
My that Rainbow Grasshopper is letting its freaky flag fly. We can’t help but wonder how conservative dressers would view that rainbow of colors. Perhaps they would call out the fashion police.
.

Letter 4 – Painted Grasshopper

 

What is it
Hi, I am resending this as you requested, but I did look further into your web sight (which is great) and I think I found it. I think it is a painted grasshopper? Am I correct? Grasshopper found in Young, Arizona 7/29/06. Thank You,
Laura

Hi Laura,
You are correct. This is a Painted Grasshopper, and it is a beautiful photo.

Letter 5 – Painted Grasshopper

 

Mystery bug : )
Hi – we found this in our garage and figure it’s some sort of grasshopper – but the wildest one we’ve ever seen! We live just north of Phx, AZ. Any idea what it is?
Thanks!
Beth

Hi Beth,
I guess it won’t surprise you that your grasshopper is a Painted Grasshopper, Dactylotum bicolor. This little beauty is found in the Arizona, Texas and Colorado in desert grasslands and sometimes alfalfa fields.

Letter 6 – Painted Grasshopper and aposomatic Spotted Bird Grasshopper

 

Subject: Mantids, cicadas, grasshoppers galore
Location: Texas Panhandle near Palo Duro Canyon
November 21, 2015 11:00 pm
Hey Bugman!
We had a ridiculously wet winter and spring this year in the Texas Panhandle, so there was basically a plague of bugs and amphibians through the summer and fall. The variety blew my mind! I was sorting through my photos and picked a few of my favorites to share with the WTB community. I feel fairly confident about the species of mantids, the Carolina, Chinese and European, but I have no idea about the grasshoppers or cicadas.
Signature: Brittani Hinders

Painted Grasshopper
Painted Grasshopper

Hi again Brittani,
Now we are dealing with the Grasshopper portion of your request.  The brightly colored black, yellow and red Grasshopper is a Rainbow Grasshopper, Painted Grasshopper or Barber Pole Grasshopper,
Dactylotum bicolor, and according to BugGuide it is found in the :  “Western Great Plains of United States (and southern Canada), southward to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and into northern Mexico.”  We are relatively certain we have properly identified your second Grasshopper as the aposomatic (warning coloration) form of the Spotted Bird Grasshopper, Schistocera lineata.  Our first clue came from an image posted to Other Insects, and once we had a name, we verified its identity on BugGuide.  The Spotted Bird Grasshopper is a variable species, and according to BugGuide:  “There is an ‘aposematic form’, which is yellowish with contrasting dark, often blackish or bluish markings that is found in Oklahoma and Texas (and perhaps in adjacent Tamaulipas).”  Generally aposomatic coloration is used by toxic or foul tasting species to warn predators, but there are also palatable species that use aposomatic coloration to fool predators into thinking the tasty morsel is actually not edible.  We believe that to be the case with the aposomatic form of the Spotted Bird Grasshopper.

Aposomatic Spotted Bird Grasshopper
Aposomatic Spotted Bird Grasshopper

Letter 7 – Painted Grasshopper and other Grasshoppers from Mexico

 

Subject: grass hopers of 3 different patterns in the same plant
Location: Peña de Bernal, Queretaro, Mexico
October 2, 2016 6:05 pm
Dear bugman,
This summer I found 3 grasshopers morphologically similar but with different color patterns.
The grasshopers where feeding in the same plant in central méxico, The ecosystem where i found them is shrubland with wet summers.
¿Do you know what kind of grasshopper this is?
Signature: Juan Sebastian Ramirez

Painted Grasshopper
Painted Grasshopper

Dear Juan,
The most colorful Grasshopper image you submitted, the black and red individual, is a Painted Grasshopper,
Dactylotum bicolor, a species that, according to BugGuide, is found in:  “Western Great Plains of United States (and southern Canada), southward to Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and into northern Mexico.”  It is the only species in the genus listed on BugGuide, and of the tribe Dactylotini, BugGuide indicates:  “Most genera included in tribe Dactylotini occur only in Mexico.”  It is entirely possible that all your Grasshoppers are in the same tribe.  We have not been able to locate a Mexican site devoted to insects quite as comprehensive as BugGuide, so we cannot say for certain if your green Grasshopper and your brown Grasshopper, which we suspect might be color variations on the same species, are closely related to the Painted Grasshopper.  Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck with identifying your other two images.

Unknown Grasshopper
Unknown Grasshopper
Unknown Grasshopper
Unknown Grasshopper

Letter 8 – Painted Grasshopper from Mexico

 

Subject: Red/Black/Blue Striped Cricket
Location: Sierra Gorda, Guanajuato, Mexico
September 21, 2013 11:11 am
I’m living in the Sierra Gorda of Mexico and came across this guy back in August down near a small creek. He was very patient with me and let me take quite a few pictures of him. Approximately 2.5-3 cm in length. The colors were quite striking, but I’ve yet to be able to identify him, despite my exhaustive efforts scouring the internet. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!
Signature: Daniel Schmidt

Painted Grasshopper
Painted Grasshopper

Dear Daniel,
We are nearly certain your Grasshopper is a Painted Grasshopper,
Dactylotum bicolor, however, your individual is more brightly colored than other examples we have found online, including on The Featured Creature, BugGuide and  La Reserva where it is called El Saltamontes Pintado, as well as our archives.

Letter 9 – Painted Grasshopper from Mexico

 

Subject: Grasshopper, but which type
Location: Santiago de Queretaro, Mexico
November 13, 2014 8:25 pm
Found today (13/11/2014) in Queretaro, Mexico. (semi desert)
I tried to identify it but the herringbone design on the femur would suggest “Differential” but its the wrong colour according to the info I read.
Thanks in advance
Kevin.
Signature: ?

Painted Grasshopper
Painted Grasshopper

Dear Kevin,
This striking Grasshopper is a Painted Grasshopper,
Dactylotum bicolor, and you can verify our identification on BugGuide.

Letter 10 – Painted Grasshopper, we presume

 

“patchwork” colorful grasshopper
July 31, 2009
Please please forgive the poor photos–I only had my cellphone camera and couldn’t see the screen, etc. Mid-afternoon, in bunch grasses, July 30. Any idea what it might be? Thanks!
Michael (needs a better cellphone cam)
Santa Fe, NM

Painted Grasshopper:  Impressionist Rendition
Painted Grasshopper: Impressionist Rendition

Dear Michael,
Remember, you bought a cellphone and not a camera.  You should just buy a camera and forget about constant connectivity.  We believe this is a Painted Grasshopper, Dactylotum bicolor, based on your Impressionistic photograph.  For photographic comparison, we are going to link back to our own site and a previous posting because we are currently unable to link to that awesome website for identifying North American insects and spiders, BugGuide.

Thank you — that’s definitely the fellow I saw. I actually didn’t pick it up because I remembered that rule about bright colors and poison — although it’s probably aimed at predators that eat the fella, now that I think about it. Anyway, thanks.
As soon as I can I’m going to buy a WiMax/cellphone/SLR/HD videocam, as long as it’s no bigger than our hawkmoths (which are pretty big) and costs less than my car (which is 14 years old).
Michael

Letter 11 – Painted Grasshoppers Mating

 

Dactylotum bicolor
Bugman,
Thought you might like to see our picture of a Dactylotum bicolor. We saw it at Horsetooth National Park in Fort Collins, Colorado.
James & Winnie Comer

Hi James and Winnie,
Your photo of mating Painted Grasshoppers is quite stunning and a welcome addition to our site. We hope to resolve a minor website issue and post it very soon. This species ranges from Northern Mexico north to Arizona, Texas, and the foothills of the Colorado Rocky Mountains.

Letter 12 – Painted Meadow Grasshoppers Mating

 

grasshopper?
Hey there!
We saw this while on a hike through The Pinnacles National Monument (mid-California, near King City -think dry & rocky but shrubby) – haven’t been able to ID it. Can you help?
JD

Hi JD,
What a colorful addition to our site. We did some unsuccessful searching and are ready to call in the big guns. We are writing to Eric Eaton and hope to hear back soon. Eric Eaton had this to say: ” The grasshopper is quite perplexing! I’d say it is probably a species of Arphia (the almost crest-like thorax suggests that, anyway). That said, I’d be interested in a second opinion, maybe from my friend Dave Lightfoot over at U of New Mexico. He’s very good with western orthopterans.”

A Possible Identification
(05/05/2006) Mystery Grasshoppers
The Mystery Grasshopper from Pinnacles National Monument looks a lot like Chortophaga viridifasciata (Northern Green-striped Grasshopper). Bug Guide has some really close pictures to the mystery hopper, but I don’t know if C. viridifasciata’s range extends into California. But the pink coloration seems dead-on to me.
Sincerely,
Chad Lensbower

Eric Eaton Responds:
” I thought of that also, but Chortophaga does not range into California as I recall, plus I have never seen a specimen with spotting on the wings as the Pinnacle Peak specimen has, towards the tips. That might also rule out Arphia now that I think of it! If I stumble upon a definitive answer, I’ll let you know.” Eric wrote in a second time several days later: ” Ok, I may have an answer for the “old” mystery hopper from Pinnacle National Monument in California, too: The painted meadow grasshopper, Chimarocephala pacific, seems to fit the distribution, season, and color pattern reasonably well. I haven’t look up images on the ‘net yet, but the field guide I am consulting says it is easily confused with the green-striped grasshopper that another person offered as a potential suspect. Eric”

Authors

    by
  • Bugman

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

  • Piyushi Dhir

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

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