Grasshopper vs Locust: 6 Major Differences That Set Them Apart

Written by Lex Basu
Updated: September 11, 2023
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Key Points:

  • Locusts and grasshoppers are very similar-looking insects but they are quite different.
  • While there are 11,000 known grasshopper species, there are only 19 locusts.
  • A key difference is that locusts can fly and grasshoppers cannot.

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.

grasshopper pooping

Grasshopper sitting on a rock

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Comparing Grasshopper vs Locust

Though the grasshopper and the locust are often confused with 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.

Grasshopper vs Locust: Appearance and Behavior

Grasshoppers and locusts are both members of the insect order Orthoptera, but they have distinct differences in their appearance and behavior.

Let’s dig a little deeper:

Appearance

Grasshoppers are typically green, brown, or gray in color, and have long, slender bodies that range in size from a few millimeters to several inches. They have large hind legs that are adapted for jumping, and their wings are usually longer than their bodies. Grasshoppers have short antennae and relatively small eyes.

Locusts, on the other hand, are a type of grasshopper that undergoes a transformation in behavior and appearance when they enter a swarming phase. During this phase, locusts become larger and change color from green to yellow or brown. They also develop longer wings and more powerful hind legs that enable them to fly long distances.

Behavior

Grasshoppers are solitary insects that are active during the day and feed on a variety of plant materials, including leaves, stems, and flowers. They are known for their distinctive “song,” which is produced by rubbing their wings together. Grasshoppers use their large hind legs to jump away from potential predators, and may also employ camouflage to avoid detection.

Fun Facts

All animals and insects are unique in some way or the other. These facts are not only interesting to know but also often so unique that it makes you wonder what the creativity and ingenuity of mother nature are.

For example, the gestational period differs in each mammal, nose. ears, and eyes of each animal are unique to the species, the mating rituals, furs, skins, colors, and instincts, are all very interesting to observe.

As the famous saying goes, no two things in nature are the same, and it could not be more true in the case of the grasshoppers and locusts. Let us find out some amazing facts about them:

Grasshoppers

There are many things you may not know about grasshoppers. Here are some examples:

  • Grasshoppers have ears on their bellies
  • Grasshoppers make music by stridulating
  • Grasshoppers lived way before the dinosaurs
  • Grasshoppers are a good source of protein

Locusts

Locusts also have some interesting things about them:

  • If food runs out, locusts turn cannibal
  • Locusts have serrated jaws
  • Locusts are waterproof and can repel poisons
  • Eating locusts can reduce heart cancer
Desert Locust in Gregarious Form on Large Green Leaf

Dessert Locust sitting on a leaf

©davemhuntphotography/Shutterstock.com

GrasshoppersLocusts
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 Grasshopper vs Locust

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.

Locust vs Grasshopper: 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.

Locust vs Grasshopper: 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.

Locust vs Grasshopper: 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 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 their own weight.

Locust vs Grasshopper: 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.

Locust vs Grasshopper: 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 – of toxins.

Locust vs Grasshopper: 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.

Nymph of Schistocerca gregaria (the desert locust)

Nymph of Schistocerca gregaria (the desert locust)

©Guillermo Guerao Serra/Shutterstock.com

Summary:

TraitGrasshoppersLocusts
Anatomy~2 in long~1.5 in long
BehaviorSolitarySwarm or solitary
DietStomach enzyme breaks down just about any vegetation
Eat 16x own weight
Vegetation like leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds, and stems
Ravenous appetite
HabitatThrive in most environmentsAfrica, the Middle East, Asia
Swarms can cover 20% of Earth’s surface
DefenseRegurgitation – bad taste/odorToxin release
FlightDoesn’t fly
Hops
Can fly

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©


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About the Author

Lex is a green-living, tree-hugging, animal-lover, who at one time was the mother to twenty one felines and one doggo. Now she helps pet owners around the globe be the best caretakers for their most trusting companions by sharing her experience and spreading love.

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.

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