Grasshoppers are among the most ancient insects on the planet, dating back to the Triassic period. They belong to the Caelifera sub-order, which encompasses around 12,000 species of grasshopper, cricket, and related insects.
Grasshoppers have legs that are six-jointed, giving them impressive jumping power for an insect of their size, which enables them to escape potential predators quickly. Large grasshoppers can jump as far as three feet, which is equivalent to around 20 times its body length. Some grasshoppers can also fly, while others have wings that are not-functional and not strong enough to allow them to take flight.
Grasshoppers are predominantly solitary creatures, though when their population increases, a change is triggered in the grasshoppers, which causes them to develop different looks and traits. It is under these circumstances that grasshoppers can swarm, and then become known as ‘locusts.’
Locusts pose a dangerous risk to crop production, though in their grasshopper form, they are not generally considered a pest. The majority of grasshoppers are herbaceous, with a preferred food source of grass, weeds, seeds, foliage, and other vegetation, though a rare few species of grasshopper will feed on animal feces or rotting animal tissue.
|Size||Between 1.5 and 2 inches long|
|Number of Species||Around 11,000|
|Expected Lifespan||1 year|
|Main Prey||Grass and weeds|
|Predators||Birds, Insects, Reptiles, Rodents|
|Special Features||Can jump great distances, change color, and fly|
Different species of grasshopper can be found in various regions around the world, including North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Some species prefer arid climates such as desserts, while some need a moist environment to thrive.
They have a relatively short life-cycle, with egg pods usually being hidden just under the surface of the soil, which hatch into nymphs the following spring or summer. They then have until the winter months to develop into adults and reproduce, to complete their life cycle before temperatures drop.
1. Lesser Marsh Grasshopper - Chorthippus albomarginatus
This grasshopper belongs to the superfamily Acrididae. At adult size, it measures between 0.5 and 1 inch. It is similar in looks to the Meadow Grasshopper, and so will often be mistaken for this relative. While both grasshoppers have pale green or brown bodies, the Lesser Marsh Grasshopper tends to have less livid coloration than the Meadow Grasshopper, and this is the best way to tell the two species apart.
The Lesser Marsh Grasshopper can be identified by its wings, which have white margins, its lack of black ‘knees,’ and its straight antennae. It also has a bulge on its wings where they join the body. These wings are functional, enabling the grasshopper to fly short distances with ease.
This grasshopper is commonly found throughout Europe and usually hatches in May. Adults will emerge during July and will typically persist until the end of October, making them a short season species with a limited lifespan. They prefer to live in damp or marshy grasslands, particularly areas that are prone to flood during winter. However, these grasshoppers can also be found in drier environments, such as roadsides and wastelands. Their main source of food is grass.
2. Common Field Grasshopper - Chorthippus brunneus
As you would assume from their common name, this type of grasshopper is one of the most common species. It is prevalent in the UK and can also be found throughout Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It is a long-season grasshopper, with nymphs hatching early in March, maturing into adults by June and July. They are able to survive right through to December.
Common Field Grasshoppers are another member of the Acrididae superfamily and were first described in 1815. These grasshoppers are predominantly brown, though they can be found in varying shades of green, white, black, and purple. They have functional wings and can fly well, having also been known to swarm. Their wings often have a mottled or striped pattern, though some have plain wings. One attribute that all Common Field Grasshoppers share is that they have hairy undersides.
This type of grasshopper prefers to live in dry areas with lots of sunlight. Because of this preference, they can usually be found in short grass or other short vegetation, where they won’t be covered by shade. Their main source of food is grass.
3. Meadow Grasshopper - Chorthippus parallelus
These grasshoppers are found across Europe and in some areas of Asia, where the environment is wet and fertile. They live amongst moist vegetation or close to rivers, where the soil doesn’t get too dry. These grasshoppers will not live in arid climates and spend much of their time in long grass, which is not only their habitat but also their food.
Visually, the Meadow Grasshopper is usually green, though some regions have an abundance of pink Meadow Grasshoppers. Females of this species grow to be bigger than males, with a typical adult size of one-eighth of an inch to the males one-sixth of an inch. All Meadow Grasshoppers are flightless; the males have longer wings than the females, but they are non-functional in both sexes.
This species can sometimes be mistaken for the Lesser Marsh Grasshopper, but the key visual difference is that Meadow Grasshoppers have black ‘knees,’ while the Lesser Marsh Grasshoppers do not.
These grasshoppers are a long season species. They lay eggs under the surface of the soil, which hatch the following April. They mature to adults in June and can survive through to November.
4. Egyptian Locust - Anacridium aegyptium
The Egyptian Locust is one of the largest European grasshoppers, with males growing up to 2.2 inches long, and females up to 2.8 inches long. They are commonly found throughout most of Europe, as well as in North Africa. Their bodies are usually a gray-brown color with a mottled pattern. They can be most easily distinguished by their unusual eyes, which have black and white vertical stripes.
These grasshoppers feed on leaves and are therefore typically found living in shrubs and trees, in environments which are sunny and warm. These grasshoppers are a solitary species, so they do not congregate in swarms with other grasshoppers. This means they do not pose a large risk to crops.
Egyptian Locusts can be seen at any time of year, though, as adults, they are most active during August and September. Nymphs usually hatch from their beneath soil eggs in April, taking a few months to reach maturity.
5. Mottled Grasshopper - Myrmeleotettix maculatus
These small grasshoppers are most commonly found in dry and rocky areas or patches of land which are bare or have very short grass growing. They like sunny conditions but exist in a variety of climates across Europe, from the UK to Russia, Greece, and Spain. They can also be found in the north of Africa. They grow to a maximum of three-quarters of an inch in length, and as you may expect from their common name, their bodies usually have a mottled pattern that can appear in a variety of earthy colors.
The male Mottled Grasshoppers have clubbed antennae, while the female's antennae are noticeably chunkier. Both sexes have antennae that lack white tipes often seen on other species of grasshopper.
Mottled Grasshoppers are a short-season species, hatching between late April and June, then taking adult form between June and October. Their main diet is grass and weeds.
6. Common Green Grasshopper - Omocestus viridulus
This type of grasshopper has a green body which sometimes has brown markings. Females are always predominantly green, while males can be khaki brown. They also have brown or yellow eyes. They are small in size, ranging from 0.7 to 0.8 inches long, with functional wings that never extend beyond the size of their bodies.
Common Green Grasshoppers are found across Europe and into Asia, where they prefer wet conditions. They live amongst long grass and tend to feed on common species of grass. These grasshoppers can be found in abundance in woodlands, meadows, and parks. They are one of the earliest grasshoppers to emerge as nymphs each year, with eggs hatching in April. They develop into adults by July and persist through to November.
Unlike many other types of grasshoppers, it has been found that Common Green Grasshoppers are not reproductively affected by dropping temperatures. This gives them a longer timeframe to find a mate and means that the eggs contained in their egg pods have a higher chance of survival in adverse temperatures.
7. Desert Locust - Schistocerca gregaria
This locust is a type of grasshopper from the superfamily Acrididae. It takes on a different appearance depending on if it is in a solitary phase or a gregarious phase. Solitary Desert Locusts when young will have a green body that allows them to blend more easily into vegetation. Their coloring develops into a pale yellow shade when they mature, allowing them to continue to blend in amongst sandy environments.
These solitary locusts operate independently of other locusts and tend only to fly at night. By comparison, gregarious Desert Locusts take on various colors, including pink and black, until finally becoming a vibrant yellow when mature.
These locusts group together with other locusts and fly in swarms during the day. They operate as one large unit, moving in unison together. It is these gregarious Desert Locusts that pose a huge threat to crops. Plagues of these species of grasshopper are estimated to threaten the livelihood of over a tenth of the planet's humans. When swarming, they can cause mass destruction to agriculture and are partially responsible for famine in some of the world's poorest areas. Solitary and gregarious Desert Locusts are the same species of grasshopper, but they can change from solitary and gregarious depending on their environment.
As more locusts group together, they undergo changes that are triggered by other locusts brushing against their bodies; these changes include an increased appetite, increased breeding, and physical color changes. All of these changes together lead to the development of a swarm. Desert locusts are considered to be the most harmful species of locust, with the biggest recorded swarm being around 40 billion locusts.
Desert Locusts are most commonly found in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. They require hot climates to be able to survive all year round, though they need a soft and moist soil in which to bury their egg pods for reproduction. They are bred in many countries around the world as food for reptiles and monkeys.
The Desert Locusts themselves will feed on any vegetation they can find. This can include leaves, flowers, seeds, fruit, stems, shoots, and even tree bark. They are voracious creatures, and can rapidly strip large areas of crops and non-crops of all vegetation (Nature Spot).
8. Eastern Lubber - Romalea microptera
This grasshopper is from the Romaleidae family and is the most commonly found species of grasshopper in the southeast of the US. It is also commonly known as the Florida Lubber, the Florida Grasshopper, the Giant Locust, the Graveyard Grasshopper, the Black Diablo, or the Devil’s Horse.
It is easy to identify because it is quite large in size, reaching up to three inches long, and it has distinctive coloring. As a nymph, the Eastern Lubber is entirely black with brightly colored stripes. As adults, they can appear in different color and pattern variations. They can be light yellow with black spots, vibrant orange with black markings, or black with red or yellow striping.
Eastern Lubbers have small wings, which are often less than half of the insect's overall size. These wings are not functional, making the grasshoppers flightless. They are native throughout the southwestern United States, living in weedy areas such as woodland, crop fields, and wasteland. They have been known to become problematic in some areas, causing damage to agricultural vegetation (Green Nature).
9. Western Horse Lubber - Taeniopoda eques
The Western Horse Lubber is native to the southeastern United States and northern Mexico. It prefers arid desert-like conditions and lives primarily among grasslands and shrubs. The female Western Horse Lubber is quite sizable, growing up to 4 inches long. The male of the species is much smaller, typically reaching just a third of the size of their female counterparts.
These grasshoppers are black with various markings in orange or yellow. This coloring allows the grasshoppers to live undetected in the base of shrubs. Interestingly, these grasshoppers do not feed on the same plants that they live on, and instead venture out to forage during daylight hours, feasting on the leaves and seeds of low lying desert plants.
The coloring of Western Horse Lubber grasshoppers also serves to warn predators that they are not safe to eat, which helps to keep them out of harm's way. They are also able to release an unpleasant toxic scent to ward off predators, as well as being able to make a high-pitched noise, which can suddenly frighten away, potentially predatory animals. If a predator does choose to prey on one of these grasshoppers, it can make the predator sick, or even lead to its death because Western Horse Lubber grasshoppers have toxins in their tissues.
These grasshoppers tend to be solitary, though they have been known to move in large groups to find food sources. They have wings, but in 90% of the case for this species, the wings are not large enough to allow the grasshopper to take flight. Due to climate conditions where these grasshoppers habitate, they have a short lifespan of around 4 months. The nymphs hatch from egg pods during July and will die off in October or November when the temperatures drop.
10. Obscure Bird Grasshopper - Schistocerca obscura
These grasshoppers are native throughout the southwestern United States, from Arizona across to Florida and as far north as Maryland. They can typically be identified by a dorsal stripe, which is an olive yellow-green color, set against a dark green or brown body. The Obscure Bird Grasshopper can grow up to 3 inches in length and has brown wings. These wings are functional, allowing the grasshopper to take flight in search of food sources.
11. White-lined Bird Grasshopper - Schistocerca albolineata
This grasshopper belongs to the Acrididae family and also features a dorsal stripe, which is most often a pale yellow color on a green body. It is native to North America and likes to live in dry, arid conditions such as deserts. It is commonly found around the border between the United States and Mexico. It feeds on greenery, including leaves, seedpods, and grass.
12. Bladder Grasshoppers - Pneumoroidea family
Bladder grasshoppers are native to southern Africa, especially coastal regions. They include the Pneumoracris browni, which is the smallest species in this group of grasshoppers, which are prolific in the African Karoo. The Physophorina livingstoni is the largest species of Bladder Grasshopper and is commonly found in the Afromontane region.
The adult male Bladder Grasshoppers are usually roughly half the size of the females, at a maximum of two and a half inches, to the females four and a half inches. The males are able to produce long and deep calls, which can be heard by other members of their species as far as 2km away. Female grasshoppers reply to this call with a high-pitched squeak, creating a duet between the two.
Other species of Bladder Grasshoppers include, but are not limited to:
- Bullacris boschimana
- Bullacris discolor
- Bullacris intermedia
- Bullacris membracoides
- Bullacris obliqua
- Bullacris serrata
- Bullacris unicolor
- Parabullacris vansoni
- Physemacris papilosus
- Physemacris variolosus
- Paraphysemacris spinosus
- Peringueyiacris namaqua
- Pneumora onanis
13. Stick Grasshoppers
This group of grasshoppers, also commonly known as Jumping Sticks, belong to the superfamily Proscopioidea. One of the species in this group is the Horsehead Grasshopper (Pseudoproscopia scabra), which can be found in South America. Like most of the Stick Grasshoppers, these insects strongly resemble small sticks, with long and then bodies in pale and varied shades of brown. They are wingless, with thin and simple limbs with which they can hop impressive heights.
Their appearance allows them to seamlessly blend into their environment, which is typically dense rainforests. By camouflaging themselves against trees and amongst other vegetation, they are able to prevent being seen by potential predators. Stick Grasshoppers are herbaceous insects, feeding predominantly on foliage.
14. Matchstick Grasshoppers - Eumastax sp.
These grasshoppers belong to the Eumastacidae family and are also commonly known as Monkey Grasshoppers. Most of the species within this group of grasshoppers hail from South America. They feed on ancient plants, such as ferns and algae. These grasshoppers have a very distinctive look, typically with a head that sits at an upwards angle to the rest of the body.
Most, but not all, Matchstick Grasshoppers are wingless. Their antennae are shorter than most other types of grasshoppers and feature a chunky, rounded tip. Their body is segmented into three sections, which can appear in a diverse range of colors, including blue, orange, green, and black.
These grasshoppers are quite attractive compared to most other types of grasshoppers, having a friendlier look about them, and shorter than usual legs.
15. Slender Groundhopper - Tetrix subulata
This grasshopper belongs to the ancient family of Tetrigidae, which also encompasses many species of crickets. Within this family, there are over 180 species of grasshopper, which are commonly known as Pygmy Grasshoppers, Pygmy Devils, or Ground-Hoppers.
The Slender Groundhopper is found across Europe, Asia, North America, and some parts of Africa. It prefers moist environments, such as riverbanks and grassy areas near streams, though it is not uncommon to also see them living in more arid places.
These grasshoppers are fairly small compared to other grasshoppers, measuring a maximum of two-thirds of an inch. They have an easily camouflaged appearance, with bodies that are variegated in dull shades of green, gray, and brown. They have functional wings which usually extend past the length of their bodies, and are very able fliers.
The female grasshoppers give visual cues to the males to indicate they are mating, and then lay eggs in August. The grasshopper nymphs will be born the following June or July.