The grasshopper is an herbivorous insect belonging to the suborder Caelifera of the order Orthoptera and can be found worldwide except in Antarctica. They are one of the oldest living groups of herbivorous insects, dating back to the early Triassic, around 250 million years ago. They comprise over 11,000 species inhabiting different climates and can survive in numerous habitats.
Meadows, temperate forests, tropical rainforests, lowlands, and semiarid regions are all home to grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are considered symbols of good luck in Japan. They emerge as nymphs or hoppers, tiny wingless adults. Unlike other insects, they undergo incomplete metamorphosis.
There is a lot to learn about these summertime critters, so let’s check out these top 10 incredible grasshopper facts.
1. Grasshoppers and locusts are the same
One of the incredible facts you may be surprised to learn is that grasshoppers and locusts are essentially the same. Grasshoppers and locusts are members of the same insect order, Orthoptera. Although certain species are commonly known as grasshoppers and others as locusts, they are actually variants of the same insect. They are generally referred to as short-horned grasshoppers to differentiate them from crickets and katydids. Nevertheless, they are considered locusts when they fly or migrate in giant swarms.
2. Grasshoppers have ears on their abdomen and have five eyes
The grasshopper’s auditory organs are located on the abdomen rather than on the head. On both sides of the first abdominal segment, beneath the insect wings, is a pair of membranes known as the eardrums that vibrate in response to sound waves. These eardrums, called the tympana, are the membranes that allow them to hear the sounds of their companions. Another fact is that a grasshopper has 5 eyes. Two of its largest eyes are conspicuously placed on each side of the head, providing an overall vision. A single eye is located at the base of each antenna, and another is just below and centered between the antennas. These 3 simple eyes can detect light and dark.
3. Grasshoppers produce music by stridulating or crepitating
Grasshoppers mainly use sound and sight to communicate. Each grasshopper species produces a distinct rhythm that distinguishes its sound from others, allowing the courting of males and females of the same species to find one another. Most male grasshoppers stridulate, producing music by rubbing their hind legs against their forewings, attracting females. They are characterized by unique pegs on the inside of the hind legs that act as percussion instruments when they come into contact with the thickened edge of the wings. On the other hand, the band-winged grasshoppers make music by snapping their wings loudly when in flight.
4. Grasshoppers’ hind legs function as a miniature slingshot
Grasshoppers jump using their hind legs like a miniature slingshot. If you’ve ever tried to catch one, you will be familiar with how a grasshopper jumps to flee from a predator. Grasshoppers can leap 20 times their body length. A small cuticle in a grasshopper’s knee functions as a spring and lets it catapult its body into the air. That’s useful for getting around, especially for nymphs yet to develop wings.
5. Grasshoppers can fly
One interesting grasshopper fact is that they are excellent fliers. They will first use their large hind legs as a booster to propel them into the air, then spread their wings and take off. Because they possess such powerful jumping legs, people sometimes don’t realize that they also have strong wings proficient in escaping predators.
6. Grasshoppers are diurnal insects
Given that they tend to rest at night and are particularly active during the day, grasshoppers are diurnal insects. This is mainly because they need to increase their body temperature with the aid of the sun so that they are equipped with sufficient energy to stay active during the day. Regardless, they are also known to be night feeders.
7. Grasshoppers destroy food crops
Although a grasshopper eats about half its body weight in plants daily, one lone grasshopper can’t cause huge damage to crops. Still, when they come in swarms, their behavior changes from a solitary phase to a gregarious phase capable of destroying a farmer’s food crops and other important sources of food. Some species of grasshopper cause more damage than others—for example, the differential grasshopper, red-legged grasshopper, and two-stripped grasshopper. In 2006, reports showed that grasshoppers cause $1.5 billion worth of damage to food crops annually, leaving people without food.
8. Grasshoppers are rich sources of proteins
Grasshoppers have served as an important source of food from time immemorial. According to the Bible, John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey in the wilderness. Grasshoppers are commonly eaten in Africa, Central, and South American countries since they are adequately packed with proteins and are an important nutritional food. Yet, eating them out in the wild is not advised as they may have been sprayed with pesticides to control them.
9. Grasshoppers spit as a means of self-defense
Grasshoppers spit brown liquid at predators to defend themselves. If you’ve ever caught grasshoppers, you’ve possibly had a number of them spit brown juice on you in protest. Scientists speculate that this behavior is a defense mechanism; the liquid helps the insect repel predators. Most people believe that grasshoppers spit “tobacco juice,” probably because history has it that grasshoppers have been associated with tobacco and crops.
10. Grasshoppers 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 full of toxins. However, some male grasshoppers have bright colors on their wings to attract females. Grasshoppers can be green, brown, or grayish. Additionally, the colors of the body provide camouflage depending on their preferred habitat. For example, we can always find the green ones in a grassy field, while sandy-colored grasshoppers are often found in dirt and desert areas.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Mainely Photos
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