The Milkweed Grasshopper: Essential Facts and Insights for Enthusiasts

Milkweed Grasshoppers are a unique group of insects known for their colorful appearance and dietary preference for milkweed plants. These insects, also called “milkweed locusts,” can be found in various regions worldwide, feeding on the nutritious and toxic milkweed plants. One fascinating aspect of Milkweed Grasshoppers is their ability to consume toxic milkweed without any … Read more

Painted Grasshopper: Insights & Tips

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 … Read more

Cricket vs Grasshopper: Uncovering the Key Differences

Cricket and grasshopper: two insects that are often confused with each other due to their similar appearance. However, these creatures from the Order Orthoptera have distinct features and behaviors that set them apart from each other. In this article, we’ll delve into the differences and similarities between crickets and grasshoppers to help you understand these … Read more

Differential Grasshopper: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

Differential grasshoppers are fascinating insects known for their unique features and behaviors. They can vary in color from green to brownish-green or olive green, making them easily adaptable to different environments. These insects have hind legs with black herringbone patterns and yellow tibias, featuring saw-toothed black spikes, which provide them with excellent jumping abilities source. … Read more

Do Grasshoppers Bite? Debunking the Myths and Facts

Grasshoppers are a common sight in gardens and fields, often hopping and flying among plants. While they can cause damage to crops, many people wonder if these insects pose a threat to humans in the form of bites.

Generally, grasshoppers are not known for biting humans. Their main source of nutrition comes from plants, making humans an unlikely target. However, there are rare instances when a grasshopper may bite if it feels threatened or is handled roughly.

In comparison to other insects, grasshopper bites aren’t considered dangerous. They may cause mild pain or discomfort, but they don’t have venom or transmit diseases. To avoid getting bitten, it’s best to observe them without directly handling them.

Do Grasshoppers Bite?

Differences Between Biting and Stinging

Grasshoppers do have the ability to bite but they usually do not bite humans. Their mouthparts are designed for chewing on plants, rather than biting animals. However, stinging is a different story as grasshoppers do not have stingers and cannot sting.

Possible Irritation and Swelling

While grasshopper bites may not be common, they can cause mild irritation or swelling. Some possible symptoms when bitten include:

  • Itchiness
  • Redness
  • Minimal swelling

However, these symptoms usually subside after a short period of time.

Examples include:

  • Accidentally handling a grasshopper and getting bitten
  • Being bitten by a larger grasshopper species with stronger jaws

Features of a grasshopper bite:

  • Usually not painful or harmful
  • Occurs infrequently
  • May cause mild irritation

Characteristics of a grasshopper sting:

  • Nonexistent (they cannot sting)

To better illustrate the differences between biting and stinging, here’s a comparison table:

Grasshopper Bite Grasshopper Sting
Pain Minimal N/A
Frequency Rare N/A
Symptoms Itchiness, Redness, Swelling N/A

In summary, grasshoppers can bite but they typically do not bite humans and cannot sting. Bites may cause minor irritation, but generally pose no significant threat.

Grasshopper Anatomy and Behavior

Physical Characteristics

Grasshoppers possess a variety of physical features that set them apart. Some of their characteristics include:

  • Long antennae for sensing their surroundings
  • Large compound eyes for enhanced vision
  • Hind legs specialized for jumping
  • Wings for flying capabilities

Grasshoppers’ colors can vary greatly, serving as camouflage within their habitats.

Feeding Habits

Essentially, grasshoppers are herbivores. Their diet primarily includes:

  • Leaves
  • Stems
  • Flowers
  • Fruits

These insects have strong mandibles that enable them to chew and consume plant matter efficiently.

Jumping and Flying Abilities

Grasshoppers are known for their impressive jumping capabilities due to their powerful hind legs. They can:

  • Jump up to 20 times their body length
  • Fly over relatively long distances

In comparison to their jumping skills, grasshoppers’ flight abilities vary. For instance:

Grasshopper Type Jumping Ability Flying Ability
Short-winged Strong Limited
Long-winged (band-winged) Strong Moderate

In conclusion, grasshoppers are fascinating insects with unique anatomical features. Their physical characteristics, feeding habits, and jumping and flying abilities notably contribute to their success as a species.

Grasshoppers as Pests

Impact on Gardens and Crops

Grasshoppers can cause significant damage to gardens and crops. They are especially problematic when they become abundant, as they can consume large amounts of foliage during their nymphal development and adulthood1.

  • Example: In Florida, Romalea microptera and Schistocerca americana are considered the most serious grasshopper pests1, known to damage vegetables and other economically important plants.

Pest Control Methods

There are various methods to control grasshoppers and prevent damage to gardens and crops.

Insecticides

Some commonly used insecticides for grasshopper control include:

  • Spinosad: A natural substance produced by bacteria, effective against a wide range of insects2.
  • Pyrethroid: Synthetic insecticides, but less effective for controlling spider mites3.

Pros and Cons of Insecticides:

Insecticide Pros Cons
Spinosad Natural, effective against many insects. May be less potent.
Pyrethroid Synthetic, widely available. Can flare mite populations3.

Biological Control

Nosema locustae is a naturally occurring protozoan that can be used as a biological control agent against grasshoppers4.

  • Pros: Environmentally friendly and low risk to beneficial insects.
  • Cons: May not provide immediate control; works best as a preventive measure.

Final Thoughts

To effectively mitigate the impact of grasshoppers on gardens and crops, consider employing a combination of these methods, such as using insecticides and biological control, to optimize protection and minimize damage.

Defensive Mechanisms of Grasshoppers

Defensive Regurgitation

Grasshoppers have a unique defense mechanism called defensive regurgitation. This involves the expulsion of a brown liquid, sometimes referred to as “tobacco juice.” The liquid contains:

  • Digestive enzymes
  • Partially digested plant material

This unpleasant substance serves to deter potential predators, making them think twice before attempting to eat a grasshopper.

Physical Defense

Grasshoppers also rely on physical defenses to protect themselves. These include:

  • Spikes
  • Spines

The spikes and spines on their legs and bodies can be used to deter predators by making them harder to handle and less palatable.

Comparison of Defensive Mechanisms

Defense Mechanism Description Example
Defensive Regurgitation Expulsion of a brown liquid (“tobacco juice”) containing digestive enzymes and partially digested plant material Grasshopper ejecting liquid into a predator’s mouth
Physical Defense Presence of spikes and spines on legs and bodies of grasshoppers to deter predators Predator trying to grab a grasshopper but getting pricked by its spines

In summary, grasshoppers have developed defensive regurgitation and physical defense mechanisms to protect themselves from predators. These tactics discourage potential threats by making grasshoppers less appetizing and more difficult to handle.

Grasshopper Species and Their Habitats

Types of Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers are medium to large herbivorous insects, with adult lengths ranging from 1 to 7 cm. Some well-known species include:

  • Brachystola magna (Plains Lubber)
  • Schistocerca americana (American Bird Grasshopper)
  • Melanoplus femurrubrum (Red-legged Grasshopper)

These insects have two pairs of wings, chewing mouthparts, and long hind legs for jumping. They often form migrating groups or swarms and can be seen in dry open habitats with lots of grass. Grasshoppers in swarms tend to be significant agricultural pests.

Geographical Distribution

Species Distribution
Plains Lubber North America
American Bird Grasshopper North and South America
Red-legged Grasshopper North America

Grasshoppers can be found in diverse regions, from deserts to jungles, but mainly prefer dry areas. Their presence can sometimes result in significant damage to crops and vegetation.

Grasshoppers in the Ecosystem

Predators of Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers are an essential part of many ecosystems, serving as prey for various predators. Here are some common predators of grasshoppers:

  • Praying mantises: These insects are known for their impressive hunting skills and often feed on grasshoppers.
  • Lizards: Many lizard species, like the leopard gecko, include grasshoppers in their diet.
  • Birds: Numerous avian species consume grasshoppers as a nutrient-rich protein source.

Role in the Food Chain

Grasshoppers play a vital role in the food chain, providing essential nutrients to their predators while they also consume vegetation. As both predators and prey, grasshoppers connect different parts of the ecosystem.

Grasshoppers as prey: As nymphs and adults, grasshoppers offer an essential source of protein for their predators, supporting the survival and reproduction of these species.

Grasshoppers as consumers: By consuming various plant species, grasshoppers contribute to the breakdown and recycling of nutrients in the ecosystem.

To better visualize the role of grasshoppers in the food chain, here’s a comparison table:

Grasshoppers Predators Role in Ecosystem
Nymph and Adult Praying mantises Serve as a protein source for various predators
Nymph and Adult Lizards Contribute to nutrient recycling
Nymph and Adult Birds Support the survival and reproduction of predators

In summary, grasshoppers play an essential role in the ecosystem by serving as both consumers and prey, thereby connecting different parts of the food chain and contributing to overall biodiversity.

Dealing with Grasshopper Bites

First Aid Tips

Grasshoppers are not known for biting humans, but in rare cases, it can happen. If bitten, follow these simple steps:

  1. Clean the bite area: Use soap and water to clean the bite area.
  2. Apply calamine lotion: This helps to alleviate itching and irritation.

Preventing Grasshopper Bites

Preventing grasshopper bites involves reducing their population and avoiding attracting them. Here are some tips:

  • Eliminate breeding sites: Remove tall grass and weeds.
  • Use a bucket of soapy water: Catch grasshoppers and place them in soapy water to kill them.

By applying these simple measures, you can reduce the likelihood of experiencing grasshopper bites.

Footnotes

  1. Entomology and Nematology Department 2

  2. Grasshopper Control in Gardens and Small Acreages

  3. NDSU – Which Insecticide is Best for Grasshopper Control? 2

  4. PMC – Control of Pest Grasshoppers in North America

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 – Grasshopper from Thailand

 

Subject: Grasshopper in Thailand
Location: Chaloklum, Koh phangan, Thailand.
April 3, 2017 5:09 am
Dear Bugman,
Could you help to indentify the species of this grashopper. Its size was between 5 and 10 centimeter and I was in on an island in the Gulf of Thailand between September and January.
Kind regards,
Signature: T. Brokke

Grasshopper

Dear T. Brokke,
Most of our searching turned up batches of fried Grasshoppers served as snacks in Thailand.  We did find a matching image on the 123RF stock photo site, but it was only identified as a “Yellow Grasshopper.”  We also found it identified as a Giant Grasshopper on the 123 Naturfotos site.  We also found it unidentified on Shutterstock.  It is also unidentified on Alamy.  Perhaps one of our readers will have better luck with an identification.

Letter 2 – Grasshopper from Panama

 

Subject: Insect on birding walk
Location: Pipeline Road, Panama City
February 24, 2015 3:43 pm
This beautiful creature was on the trail, on the ground and very much alive, around 9 in the morning. I’m guessing it’s a leafhopper? Can you help identify?
Signature: Panama hiker

Grasshopper
Grasshopper

Dear Panama hiker,
This is a gorgeous red eyed Grasshopper, and we found matching images on John Afdem’s Panama Photog Blog and FlickR, but alas, they are not identified by the species or genus.
  Another FlickR posting identifies is as Coscineuta coxalisWe verified the species name on Encyclopedia of Life.

Letter 3 – Grasshopper from Australia may be Giant Valanga

 

Subject: Locust identification
Location: Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
January 21, 2015 3:31 am
Hi,
I took these photos of a locust/grasshopper in a suburb of Brisbane, Queensland, Australia about 2 weeks ago and would be interested in knowing what it is. It was around 5-6 inches (125-150mm) in length. I was thinking it was a female spur-throated locust but now I’m not so sure as they apparently do not grow this big. Any idea?
Signature: Chris

Grasshopper
Grasshopper

Dear Chris,
The profile image of this Grasshopper is positively gorgeous, and the detail in the hind leg showing the red spines is so technically excellent that we are also including a close-up of that significant detail.  We wonder if this might be a Giant Grasshopper,
Valanga irregularis, which we located on the Brisbane Insect site.  According to the site:  “The Giant Grasshoppers are the largest grasshoppers in Australia. They also commonly known as Giant Valanga and Hedge Grasshoppers. They are native to Australia. The adult size vary from 60-90mm. They are common in Brisbane bushes and backyards. We found these grasshoppers easily on every board leaf plants in our backyard. They eat almost all kinds of leaves. In the early morning, we usually found them sun-bathing on leaf. At that time they are slow-moving. After they have been warmed up, they jump and fly away quickly. Notice the spines on their hind legs, if they are caught by birds or by spider web, they will attack their predators by their hind legs.  Their body colour and patterns are vary between individuals. Usually adults are greyish green and brown in colours with black dots pattern on forewings. The colours resemble the plant stem where they hide.” 

Grasshopper
Grasshopper
Hind Leg of a Grasshopper
Hind Leg of a Grasshopper

Letter 4 – Grasshopper from Australia

 

Subject: Large grasshopper
Location: Scone, NSW., Australia
March 16, 2014 3:01 am
Please can you tell me what this grasshopper is? I live in Australia. This is the female and is 6.4cm from head to tip of wing. It is a pale brown colour when alive with darker markings, but has gone darker and redder since freezing. They fly very fast and are difficult to catch! I have many in my suburban garden and plan to do a drawing of the specimen. It would be great if you could also give me the scientific description e.g. phylum, class, order, family and genus. Thank you.

Grasshopper
Grasshopper

The best we are able to provide for you at this time is the taxonomy to the family level.
Phylum Arthropoda – Arthropods
Class Insecta – Insects
Order Orthoptera – Grasshoppers, Crickets, Katydids
Suborder Caelifera – Grasshoppers
Family Acrididae – Short-horned Grasshoppers.

Grasshopper
Grasshopper
Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers

 

Letter 5 – Grasshopper from Australia

 

Subject: Valanga irregularis
Location: Perth, Western Australia
May 13, 2014 7:12 am
Just commented on a post on your website about a giant grasshopper found last November in Perth, Western Australia. We also found one in a bougainvillea outside our window (under the eaves, which would have sheltered it from the recent rains), but the websites I’ve seen put these as living in our tropical top end, not here in the temperate south. We are in Autumn, just heading into winter. Are they lost???
Signature: Helen

Grasshopper
Giant Grasshopper

Dear Helen,
Your identification appears to be correct.  According to the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, the Giant Grasshopper or Hedge Grasshopper is “Very large – Australia’s biggest grasshopper.”  According to Csiro, the Giant Grasshopper is found in Western Australia, but it does not indicate if it ranges as far south as Perth.  Perhaps this is another symptom of global warming.

Letter 6 – Grasshopper from Colombia: Aristia mordax

 

Subject: Jiminy Cricket
Location: near Medellin, Colombia
April 23, 2013 2:08 pm
Hi,
I was in Colombia, and took a picture of what I believe to be a Cricket… but what do i know? Not a lot about Crickets.
So I have a pretty good picture here. When I search for cricket images on Google, I don’t find anything like the picture i’ve taken.
Can you identify please? I’ve got the photo on Flickr.
Thanks
Signature: David Casserly

Grasshopper
Grasshopper:  Aristia mordax

Hi David,
While we are unable to provide you with an exact species name, we can tell you that this Colombian Orthopteran is a Grasshopper in the family Acrididae.

Ah ha, it’s not even a cricket! That makes sense, as I took this picture during the day.
Thanks for the info

Easy mistake as Grasshoppers and Crickets are both in the order Orthoptera.

Update:  October 27, 2013
We received a comment today from caranpaima who identified this as a male
Aristia mordax, and we verified that with this photo on FlickR and this black and white image of a mounted specimen on Orthoptera Species File online. 

Letter 7 – Grasshopper from Brazil

 

Zoniopoda Grasshopper
Location: Pirituba, São Paulo/SP, Brazil
February 17, 2012 6:41 pm
Hello, there!
In november 2011, I sent some photos of an immature grasshopper 2011/11/24/immature-grasshopper-from-brazil/ which Karl believes it could be Zoniopoda tarsata. This mature one that my friend Paulo found, looks a lot like the image he sent us a link http://www.faunaparaguay.com/Zoniopoda%20tarsata%20PROCOSARA%20david%20gill%2026%20march%2008.jpg. I noticed little differences in the forelegs, but I still believe this must be a subspecies of Z. tarsata.
Signature: Cesar Crash

Grasshopper from Brazil

Hi Cesar,
Thanks for sending this photo of a beautiful grasshopper.  We believe the previous identification is correct and this is
Zoniopoda tarsata.

Letter 8 – Grasshopper from Canada

 

Subject: What type of insect is this?
Location: southern Ontario
March 13, 2017 4:31 pm
Are you able to identify this bug for us? It was found in a parking lot by a park in southern Ontario.
Signature: Lindsay

Grasshopper

Hi Lindsay,
This is some species of Grasshopper, but we do not know its exact identity.  The shape of its wings are unusual.  It is possible that it was recently metamorphosed and its wings had not yet fully hardened.  We suspect this was not a late winter sighting this year.  Please clarify when the sighting occurred.

Hi Daniel,
Thank you for your response. Yes, sorry I forgot to add the date the photo was taken. It was from early July 2016.
Thank you,
Lindsay

Letter 9 – Grasshopper from Costa Rica

 

Subject: Costa Rica unusual antennae grasshopper
Location: Cahuita, Costa Rica
April 26, 2013 11:46 am
Greetings.
I haven’t been able to identify this critter beyond probably immature, probably Acrididae. When I first saw it, I couldn’t even figure out which part was the head. Some photos are out of focus, but I included them for general anatomical shapes.
Photographed in Caribbean foothills of the Talamanca range, near Cahuita, Limon, Costa Rica in late February, late afternoon on the mossy side of a tree about eye level. I’m guessing it was about 2 cm long.
Signature: Karin

Grasshopper
Grasshopper

Dear Karin,
We did a quick search of Costa Rican Grasshoppers on the internet, and we came up blank.  Meanwhile, we have contacted Piotr Naskrecki who is an expert on Katydids.  We thought he might be able to assist with this different Orthopteran group.

Autoreply from Piotr Naskrecki
THIS IS AN AUTOMATIC REPLY: I will be in Mozambique until June 2nd, 2013. During this time I will have limited access to e-mail. I will respond to your message as soon as I can.
Cheers,
Piotr

Information Courtesy of Karl
November 12, 2013
Hi Daniel and Karen:
This nymph is a variety of Lubber grasshopper (Romeleidae) in the subfamily Romaleinae and tribe Procolpini. I photographed the same or very similar grasshopper nymph in the Arenal region of Costa Rica in 2010 (photo attached), and identifying it turned out to be far more challenging than I would have expected for such a distinctive insect. I eventually decided that the genus was Munatia. The genus has only two species, M. punctata and M. biolleyi, both of which are present in Costa Rica. I used the keys and descriptions provided by Rowell (1998) to identify my grasshopper as M. biolleyi. The color of Karen’s grasshopper doesn’t quite match the descriptions provided by Rowell for either Munatia species (base color should be some shade of brown or green) but it is essentially identical to my nymph and Rowell’s descriptions in all other respects. Based on the Caribbean location of Karen’s photo and several key anatomical features (e.g., shape of the pronotum and the presence of a small but prominent white tubercle in the middle of pronotum) I believe it be M. biolleyi as well. Hopefully Piotr can eventually provide confirmation or an alternative identification. Regards.  Karl

Grasshopper:  Munatia biolleyi
Grasshopper: Munatia biolleyi

Thanks Karl,
Your knowledgeable research is always appreciated.

Letter 10 – Grasshopper from Israel

 

Acrida bicolor from Israel
Tue, Dec 23, 2008 at 12:31 AM
Hi Bug People!
I saw this fellow, Acrida bicolor, on a hike last weekend (December 19th) in the Judaean desert, not far from the Dead Sea. I thought that such a remarkable creature must be posted on WTB, so here are three pictures. One on a red background to emphasize its color patterns, one on my hand as a size reference, and one in its natural habitat, to show its camoflage.
Enjoy!
Ben, Israel
Zohar ravine, Judaean desert.

Acrida bicolor from Israel
Acrida bicolor from Israel

Hi Ben,
Thanks for sending us these wonderful images of Grasshopper from Israel.  It sure is an interesting looking specimen.

Acrida bicolor from Israel
Acrida bicolor from Israel

Letter 11 – Grasshopper from Israel

 

Green Acrida bicolor from Israel
April 12, 2010
Hi WTB,
I sent you a set of brown Acrida bicolor a couple years ago and you posted them:
2008/12/24/grasshopper-from-israel/
So here’s a green one to complete the series.
Ben
Eastern Samaria, Israel

Acrida bicolor

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