Ten facts about grasshoppers

On a hot summer’s day, fields can seem full of grasshoppers. Here are ten interesting facts about them.

Grasshoppers “stridulate”

Male grasshoppers produce their characteristic chirps by “stridulation”, which involves rubbing little pegs on their legs across the veins on their forewing. These sounds are produced in order to find a mate and protect their territory. I guess it’s more like playing a violin than singing. Some species also snap their wings loudly when in flight to draw attention to themselves.

Ears on their abdomen

A grasshopper’s hearing organ is a large membrane called a tympanum. It’s not located on its head, but on either side of the first segment of the abdomen, near the base of the hind legs.

Five eyes

A grasshopper has two large compound eyes conspicuously placed on each side of the head. These provide overall vision. It also has three simple eyes capable of detecting light and dark. Two are located at the base of each antenna. Its fifth eye is centrally placed between the antennas.

Large Marsh Grasshopper (Stethophyma grossum)

High jumpers

Grasshoppers jump to escape from a predator – and they can jump up to heights of one meter. It first completely folds its back legs and then springs forward. The peak acceleration during take-off approaches 20 g, which would probably squash a human.

Long-distance flyers

We are more used to seeing grasshoppers jump, but they are excellent fliers too. Some grasshoppers have been tracked as flying up to 50 km (31 miles) a day, at speeds of 16 km/hour (10 mph) and as high as 4,000 meters (13,000 feet).

Rich sources of proteins

Grasshoppers are protein rich and are an important source of nutrition in certain countries in Africa, Central and South America. I’ve eaten a grasshopper snack bar and found it … very crunchy!

Can destroy food crops

A grasshopper can eat about half its body weight in plants daily. As one grasshopper only weighs 300 mg (0.01 ounce), that’s not going to be a problem. But when they swarm, that can mean big trouble. A swam of locusts (a species of grasshopper) can have between 4 and 8 BILLION insects! They are thus capable of causing huge damage to crops.

Rufous Grasshopper
Rufous Grasshopper (Gomphocerippus rufus)

Camouflage themselves

Grasshoppers match their color with that of their surroundings. This helps them to avoid being detected by predators. This was proved by researchers in Spain:

“We changed the color of the grasshoppers with watercolor paint (something that does not affect them more than in their color). Individuals painted in dark color moved onto the dark asphalt, and individuals painted in pale color moved onto the pale-tiled sidewalks.”

Adrián Baños, University of Seville

Consume toxins

A few species of grasshoppers eat toxic plants and retain the toxins in their bodies, which they employ as a form of protection. These creatures are brightly colored to warn predators that they are distasteful and not worth eating.

Over 10,000 different species

I think I’ve probably identified about 10 of these 10,000 species of grasshopper! I’m looking forward to the summer when I hope to identify – and photograph – some more.


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