Life of the Grasshopper

Some long-horned grasshoppers, such as the katydids, lay their eggs on leaves. Most other long-horned grasshoppers deposit their eggs in the soft tissue of plants or on tree branches. Short-horned grasshoppers deposit their eggs, in clusters of 15 to 100 or more. underground. They cover the clusters with a fluid that hardens to form a protective cover. The eggs are laid in late summer or fall, and the nymphs (offspring) emerge in spring.

GrasshoppersGrasshoppers "sing" by rubbing their wings together.

The nymphs go through a cycle of development called incomplete metamorphosis. The nymphs resemble the adults except that they are smaller and wingless. They feed, as do adults, on leaves and other soft plant parts. As they grow they molt, or shed their coverings, usually five times. In two or three months they become adults. The adults die in winter, and the species are perpetuated by the nymphs that emerge from the eggs in spring.

Relatively few grasshoppers survive to reproduce, for the insects have a host of enemies. Moles, shrews, fly maggots, and the young of blister beetles eat the eggs. Birds, toads, skunks, lizards, mice, and other animals eat both nymphs and adults.

How Does a Grasshopper Lay Her Eggs?

Soon after grasshoppers mate, the female is ready to lay her eggs. She usually lays her eggs in the ground. A special body part called an ovipositor (oh vuh PAHZ uh tuhr) helps the female do this. The ovipositor is a tube from which the eggs pass out of the female’s body. Before she lays her eggs, the female drills a hole in the soil. She uses her ovipositor to do this. Then she lays her eggs inside the hole. Each egg looks like a tiny grain of rice. The female may lay over a hundred eggs at one time.

After she lays the eggs, the female covers them with thick, sticky foam. The foam hardens and keeps the eggs from getting wet. The eggs and foam together are called a pod.

How Does a Baby Grasshopper Hatch?

Many grasshoppers lay their eggs in the fall. By the next spring, the eggs are ready to hatch. When a baby grasshopper hatches, it wiggles slowly out of its egg. Then it pushes through the egg pod and makes its way up out of the hole.

A baby grasshopper is called a nymph (NIHMF). Nymphs may be tiny, but they have huge appetites. In fact, nymphs eat even more than adult grasshoppers do.

Why Does a Nymph Shed Its Skin?

Like its parents, a nymph has a hard exoskeleton. This exoskeleton cannot grow or stretch. So, as the nymph grows, it must shed its exoskeleton. This is called molting.

When a nymph is ready to molt, it climbs onto a leaf or a branch. It may even hang upside down. Slowly, the nymph slides out of its old exoskeleton. Underneath, the nymph has a new, soft exoskeleton. The nymph puffs up with air. This makes its body bigger while the new exoskeleton hardens. Now the nymph has room to grow until the next molt!

As they molt, most nymphs grow wings. The wings begin as little pads. They grow with each molt. The wings are finally formed by the time of the last molt.