Grasshopper vs Locust: 6 Major Differences That Set Them Apart

Written by AZ Animals Staff
Published: July 15, 2021

Grasshoppers and locusts look strikingly similar, but how alike are they? Sure – they both have springy legs and a certain hue to their bodies, but each one stands alone as a rather unique animal. While there are a few physical traits that make them different, their behavior is the most obvious way to tell them apart.

Each of these insects has a specific diet, even though they are both herbivores. However, only the grasshopper has the power to physiologically become the other during swarms. Plus, they each live to be less than a year old, but only the locust has a few months to make a difference in their life.

Comparing Grasshopper vs Locust

Though the grasshopper and the locust are often confused for one another, each one is a rather specific type of insect. Interestingly, locusts are part of the grasshopper family already, but there are a few ways that they are different.
Currently, there are about 11,000 known species of grasshoppers in the world, while there are only 19 species of locusts.

Check out the chart below to learn about a few of the main differences.

SizeApproximately 2 inches longApproximately 2-3 inches long
Lifespan1 year3-6 months
ColorsGreen, olive, brown, yellow, and redGreen, black, and brown (depending on population)
Number of Species11,000 different species19 different species (which are all part of the grasshopper family)

The 6 Key Differences Between Grasshoppers and Locusts

When it comes to the grasshopper and the locust, most people end up using the phrases interchangeably. They aren’t altogether wrong – they belong to the same insect family, have similar builds, and even come in similar colors. However, there are still a few ways to tell which one is in your backyard.

Grasshopper vs Locust: Bigger Bodies

Among all of the different species of locusts and grasshoppers, the locust is usually smaller in size. Even though the average size of a locust is a little greater, there are also significantly fewer species to round out this average. Furthermore, when swarms form, female locusts will become smaller.

Grasshopper vs Locust: Swarming Around

If you don’t have a locust and a grasshopper side by side, you may still not be sure which one is which. Typically, locusts are able to thrive as solitary insects or as part of a swarm, depending on the density of the population. While the population is low, they’ll act like a grasshopper does – independently. When the population is high, the locust prefers to thrive in swarms.

Grasshoppers, however, do not typically swarm unless their serotonin levels spike, which causes them to behave and physiologically change to the same behavior as the locust.

Grasshopper vs Locust: A Heaping Appetite

Even though these creatures are rather small, they still have a steady diet. The locust requires a lot of food to maintain its small body, and it will eat its weight in vegetation like leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds, and stems. Their diet is completely comprised of green plants, though they will also feed on dead grasshoppers in a pinch. If the locust is part of a swarm, the group can eat the same amount as 10 elephants.

The grasshopper will eat nearly any plant or vegetable is available, and they are not nearly as picky. Their stomach contains a special enzyme that will break down anything, even if it includes dead and dry leaves. Plus, they eat much more than the locust, reaching up to 16 times its own weight.

Grasshopper vs Locust: Natural Habitat

Your location is probably a good indication of which insect you’re dealing with. Locusts are often found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. During times of low activity, there are about 30 counties in these regions. However, when there’s a massive swarm, there are 60 countries in the area that are most prone to sightings. In those times, they cover about 20% of the earth’s surface.

Grasshoppers are much less picky in their habitat. They can thrive almost anywhere, ranging from the mountains to tropical forests, from the grasslands to the savannahs. Some species of grasshoppers will even live near water.

Grasshopper vs Locust: Defense Mechanisms

Since these insects are both rather small and come from the same family, some of the defense mechanisms that they use are the same. With their long legs, the first impulse of each one is to jump away when camouflaging with their surroundings doesn’t work. If they are unable to get away, they use their bodies to release different fluids.

The grasshopper is one of many species that use defensive regurgitation as its main form of defense. This release lets off a bad taste in the mouth of their predator or sometimes an odor. Locusts, on the other hand, have a more aggressive release – toxins.

Grasshopper vs Locust: Flighty Insects

Not every insect can fly, and the grasshopper is grouped under this category. The only way that they get around is by hopping. The locust, however, is much more fortunate. Due to their wings, they can fly wherever they need to go which doesn’t allow them to hop. In fact, this flight is what makes their swarming so frightening to many people.

Next Up: Bunny vs Rabbit – 3 Main Differences

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

How do grasshoppers turn into locusts?

According to studies, the sudden presence of serotonin in grasshoppers can cause them to become locusts. This hormone impacts certain parts of the nervous system, leading them to swarm.

Is a grasshopper a locust?

Technically, a locust is a type of grasshopper. They belong to the short-horned grasshopper family. However, all grasshoppers are not locusts.