Economic Importance

A source of protein, grasshoppers have been eaten in nearly all regions at various eras. They are a common food in parts of Asia and Africa—fried, roasted, or ground to be mixed with flour. The damage grasshoppers cause by eating green plants, however, by far outweighs their value as food.

Long-horned Grasshoppers,

in general, do comparatively little damage. The katydid, which lives in trees and shrubs, seldom occurs in numbers large enough to do noticeable harm. The green meadow grasshopper, common in most fields east of the Rockies, also is relatively harmless. The Mormon-cricket, however, has been one of the worst insect pests of the Great Plains ever since it threatened destruction to the crops of early settlers in Utah, (Despite its name, this insect is a grasshopper, not a cricket.)

Which Grasshopper is a Thief?

Some farmers consider the Mormon cricket to be a thief. That’s because this cricket steals feed from grazing lands in the western United States.

The Mormon cricket is not really a cricket. It’s actually a long-horned grasshopper. But it does look like a field cricket. Both insects can be large and black. Both have long feelers. So how can you tell them apart? A Mormon cricket’s wings are much smaller than a field cricket’s wings. Because their wings are so small, Mormon crickets can’t fly.

Mormon crickets seem to prefer the flower and seed parts of a plant. These are the same parts that cattle, sheep, and horses graze on. After Mormon crickets sweep through an area, little is left for farm animals to eat.

Short-horned Grasshoppers

Locusts are among the most destructive of all insect pests. Swarms of desert locusts were among the plagues of the Biblical Egyptians, and they still plague farmers throughout Asia and Africa. Their threat is so great that regional and international organizations monitor desert locust populations and launch control measures when necessary.

Locusts are particularly destructive in hot, dry regions when a sudden increase in their numbers, combined with food shortage, forces them to migrate. They migrate in huge swarms, devouring virtually every green plant in their path.

In the United States locusts are especially destructive on the Great Plains. Ninety per cent or more of the damage done by locusts is caused by five species: the lesser migratory grasshopper, the differential grasshopper, the two-striped grasshopper, the red-legged grasshopper, and the clear-winged grasshopper.

Locusts are most effectively controlled by pesticides spread by aircraft.

Who Is That Brightly Colored ‘Hopper?

It’s a “monkey ’hopper,” of course! The monkey grasshopper, which lives in tropical rain forests, is famous for its beautiful colors. The monkey ’hopper’s head seems to shine and there are many different colors on its abdomen!

There are over 1,000 different kinds of monkey grasshoppers. Some are mostly green, and these blend in with the colors of their rain forest homes.

Monkey grasshoppers have very short antennae and very long hind legs. Their hind legs are so long that when a monkey ’hopper sits on a leaf, its legs often splay, or spread out, to the sides.

What Preys on Grasshoppers?

Spiders prey on grasshoppers. So do insects such as ants and mantids. Birds, monkeys, and snakes also make meals out of grasshoppers. And so do chameleons.

A grasshopper’s eggs aren’t safe either. Many insects enjoy eating grasshopper eggs. Young beetles will often move into an egg pod and stay there until they’ve eaten all the eggs. Some adult insects lay their own eggs inside a grasshopper’s pod. When the babies of these insects are born, they feed on the grasshopper eggs.

How Do Grasshoppers Protect Themselves?

Grasshoppers have several ways to protect themselves. One way is by leaping. With their leaps, they can often jump away from their enemies. The grasshoppers simply leap up and fly away.

A grasshopper’s coloring may also help to protect it. Some grasshoppers blend right in with their surroundings. For example, grasshoppers that live near green plants are often green.

Other grasshoppers have a different approach. Instead of blending in, they really stand out. Often, brightly colored grasshoppers are poisonous. A grasshopper’s bright colors warn enemies to stay away.

It may seem rude, but grasshoppers also spit to protect themselves. When a grasshopper is handled, it spits out a brown liquid. This foul stuff helps keep enemies away. A grasshopper may also use its strong jaws to bite an enemy.

What Happens When Grasshoppers Swarm?

Grasshoppers usually live alone. But every so often, grasshoppers swarm, or form a large group.

Scientists aren’t sure why grasshoppers swarm. They often swarm after many females have laid their eggs very close together. When the eggs hatch, there are nymphs leaping all over the place! For some reason, these nymphs often stay together. They begin to move about as one. Soon they become adults and form a flying swarm.

Sometimes swarms of short-horned grasshoppers migrate, or travel long distances. Short-horned grasshoppers that migrate are known as migratory locusts. These locusts may travel 25 to 50 miles (40 to 80 kilometers) a day. They may fly hundreds of miles before they are finished.

How Big Can a Locust Swarm Get?

Imagine billions and billions of insects flying overhead. That’s how big a swarm of migratory locusts can be! The swarm can become so thick that it fills the sky and blocks out sunlight. The swarm can extend for thousands of miles.

Eventually the locusts in a swarm do land. Then they eat just about everything in sight. They mow through entire fields of crops.

In the past, swarms of locusts have formed in almost every part of the world. There have been large swarms in Africa, Australia, Europe, and the western United States. Passing through a swarm by car or plane can be dangerous.

Grasshoppers belong to the order of straightwinged insects, Orthoptera.

Long-horned grasshoppers belong to the family Tettigoniidae. The fork-tailed bush katydid is Scudderia furcata; meadow grasshopper, Orchelimum vulgare; Mormon cricket, Anabrus simplex.

Short-horned grasshoppers belong to the family Acrididae. The desert locust is Schistocerca gregaria; the lesser migratory grasshopper is Melanoplus mexicanus; differential, M. differentialis; two-striped, M. bivittatus; red-legged, M. femurrubrum; clear-winged, Camnula pellucida.