Elegant Grasshopper, one of the Toxic Milkweed Grasshoppers

brilliant grasshopper
Location: Amani Nature Reserve, Northeast Tanzania
May 18, 2011 3:25 am
The local Swahili name is Ongeda (n-gay-duh), but I have no idea what its scientific name is. Apparently they are occasionally eaten.
Signature: Phil

Elegant Grasshopper

Dear Phil,
Our first impulse was to pose the possibility that this might be a Toxic Milkweed Grasshopper in the family Pyrgomorphidae.  We are especially interested in your statement that they are consumed, which is contradictory to what we would expect.  We haven’t the time to more thoroughly research this at the moment, but perhaps one of our readers will be able to locate a matching image on a credible website.  We love finding beautiful photographs on FlickR, however, any identifications posted there require additional research.

Karl identifies Elegant Grasshopper
Hi Daniel and Phil:
It is indeed a Toxic Milkweed Grasshopper (also Foam Grasshopper) in the family Pyrgomorphidae. I am fairly certain that it is an Elegant Grasshopper (Zonocerus elegans), a short-winged and flightless grasshopper found throughout much of Africa south of the Sahara. They are sometimes also referred to as Rainbow Locusts. They are apparently slow and clumsy, relying primarily on their accumulated toxins for protection from predators. The toxins make them taste bad, although apparently not bad enough to make them inedible for humans. I found numerous references suggesting they are eaten in various parts of Africa. Regards.  Karl

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