Toxic Milkweed Grasshopper from South Africa

Subject: What is this?
Location: Pietermaritzburg [South Africa]
January 28, 2013 7:46 am
I found this eating a plant in my garden at the weekend. Can you help me identify it? I think it’s a locust or grasshopper.
Signature: Sally

Toxic Milkweed Grasshopper

Hi Sally,
This is a Grasshopper in the family Pyrgomorphidae, a group sometimes called the Toxic Milkweed Grasshoppers because many family members feed on milkweed and they are able to retain toxic compounds in their bodies that act as a deterrent to predators.  Many Toxic Milkweed Grasshoppers also have aposomatic or warning coloration.  The striped antennae and cobalt blue markings near the base of the legs are distinctive and we will attempt to find a species name for you.  We have not seen any examples with this much black in the coloration and we are not certain if this is a subspecies, an example of individual variation or a new species for our site.

Toxic Milkweed Grasshopper

Thanks for your swift response. It will be interesting to see if you come up with a species!  I hope it was of interest to you.
Sally Wood

They are lovely photos of a beautiful Grasshopper and we are happy to include them in our archive.

Update:  January 20, 2015
We now believe this individual is a female
Maura rubroornata based on this image posted to iSpot.  Here is another image from iSpot.  There are images of mounted specimens on Orthoptera Species File, and there appear to be significant variations in the markings of this species.

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