Driftless Prairies: Native Habitat Restoration

Nature inspires awe!

Orthoptera – Grasshoppers, Katydids, Crickets

Grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets are found all over the world. There are around 10,000 species described at present.  Most of those in the US are native. There are a few species that overwinter in some stage other than an egg but most of the adults will perish once the cold weather of winter arrives.

Grasshoppers will have 1 generation per year. They go through 3 stages: egg, nymph, adult. The eggs are laid in the soil and will overwinter until spring, when a nymph will hatch. The hatching is dependent upon soil moisture and air temperature. The nymph will go through 4-6 molts, called instars. the shape of their wing pad determines which instar the nymphs are in. With each of these molts, their wings and antennae will lengthen and their genitalia will develop. Interestingly, they must hang upside down in order to complete molting and not be deformed.

Grasshoppers tend to be thought of as agricultural pests. Yes, they do eat lots of foliage but can you imagine what the world would look like without their grazing habits? And there are other positives to their nibbling. This feeding action helps to change the abundance and richness of some of the species. It also allows for nutrients to be available as food to other critters instead of tied up in the dead plant tissues. Orthoptera are 50-70% protein.

This family is usually discussed in 2 terms — long-horned and short-horned. I have not broken this down into those subfamilies because I’m trying to be consistent with these presentations. Other than the size of their antennae, there are some general differences in the subfamilies. The long-horned grasshoppers reproduce by the female mounting the male and the male providing a spermatophore hanging out the end of the female; this is a protein-rich “gift” from the male that the female eats. In short-horned grasshoppers, the male mounts the female and the spermatophore is desposited inside of her. Long-horns deposit their eggs into slits in twigs; short-horns deposit eggs into the soil.

Grasshoppers are mostly found in sunny areas with vegetation that isn’t thick, whereas katydids and crickets are mostly found in woods and mature forests.

Adult identifications are usually somewhat easily made by the color and shape of their body structures. The nymphs lack the necessary characteristics for accurate ID and must be raised in order to learn their species.

This order is known for their calling songs. Similar to birds, they have different songs for different reasons — courtship, territory protection, protest, alert. Stridulation is usually done by rubbing wings or legs. In crickets, the rubbing is done of the right wing whereas katydids use their left wing. In grasshoppers, these calls are usually done in tandem with some movement or color flashing. Other sounds made by grasshoppers include crepitation, which is made by snapping the wings while in flight and drumming, which is the shaking of the hind legs.

I have organized these alphabetically by family and then alphabetically by genus and species, for ease of use. I have used these references for the information and have taken care to provide accurate IDs; should there be a mistake, please let me know. All the photos were taken by me.

Some articles and websites of interest:
10 Cool Things about Grasshoppers is interesting
Feeding Patterns of Grasshoppers
Temporal Rhythms in the Signals of Insects is a fun article about singing insects.

Acrididae (Short-horned Grasshoppers)
Dichromorpha viridis – Short-winged Green Grasshopper
Dissosteira carolina – Carolina Grasshopper
Encoptolophus sordidus – Clouded Grasshopper ­
Melanoplus bivittatus femoratus
– Two-striped Grasshopper
Melanoplus differentialis – Differential Grasshopper
Melanoplus femurrubrum – Red-legged Grasshopper
Melanoplus viridipes – Green legged grasshopper

Gryllidae (True Crickets)
Allonemobius fasciatus – Striped Ground Cricket
Anaxipha exigua – Say’s Trig Cricket
Eunemobius carolinus – Carolina Ground Cricket
Neoxabea bipunctata – Two-spotted Tree Cricket
Oecanthus forbesii – Forbes’ Tree Cricket
Oecanthus fultoni – Snowy Tree Cricket
Oecanthus nigricornis – Black-horned Tree Cricket
Oecanthus niveus – Narrow-winged Tree Cricket

Tetrigidae (Pygmy Grasshoppers)
Tetrix ornata – Ornate Pygmy Grasshopper

Tettigoniidae (Katydids)
Amblycorypha oblongifolia – Oblong-winged Katydid
Amblycorypha sp – Round-headed Katydid
Conocephalus strictus – Straight-lanced Meadow Katydid
Scudderia sp – Bush Katydid
Scudderia furcata – Fork-tailed Bush Katydid
Metroptera roeselii – Roesel’s Katydid
Neoconocephalus nebrascensis – Nebraska Cone-head
Neoconocephalus retusus — Round-tipped Conehead