Grasshoppers are insects of the suborder Caelifera within the order Orthoptera.
There are over 11,000 known species of grasshoppers.
They are found on every continent except for Antarctica.
Most grasshoppers prefer dry open habitats with lots of grass and other low plants, though some species live in forests or jungles. Many of the grassland species invade farmer’s fields too.
The lifespan of a grasshopper depends on the climate where it resides. In climates where winter is cold, grasshoppers can only survive the winter as an egg. Adult grasshoppers do not survive low temperatures. In warmer climates, grasshoppers are capable of living for several years.
Grasshoppers are medium to large insects. Adult length is 1 to 7 centimeters (0.4 to 2.75 inches), depending on the species. Female grasshoppers are normally larger than males.
Grasshoppers have the typical insect body plan of head, thorax and abdomen.
The head bears a large pair of compound eyes which give all-round vision, three simple eyes which can detect light and dark, and a pair of thread-like antennae that are sensitive to touch and smell. Their mouth parts are modified for chewing.
They have, two pairs of wings, one narrow and tough, the other wide and flexible, and long hind legs for jumping.
Grasshoppers are colored to blend into their environment, usually a combination of brown, gray or green. In some species the males have bright colors on their wings that they use to attract females. A few species eat toxic plants, and keep the toxins in their bodies for protection. They are brightly colored to warn predators that they taste bad.
Grasshoppers are typically ground-dwelling insects with powerful hind legs which enable them to escape from threats by leaping vigorously.
An adult grasshopper is capable of leaping 10 times its length straight into the air and 20 times its length horizontally without using its wings. That is, if a grasshopper is 5 centimeters (2 inches) long, it can jump a distance of 1 meter (40 inches).
A small cuticle in a grasshopper’s knee acts as a spring and lets it catapult its body into the air.
The peak acceleration during take-off approaches 20 G; When flying fighter jet you can experience G forces up to 9 G.
Most species of grasshoppers have wings and can fly pretty well, using their large hind jumping legs as a booster to propel them into the air, where they spread their wings and take off. They can reach a speed of 13 kilometers (8 miles) per hour when flying.
They are most active during the day, but also feed at night.
Grasshoppers are herbivores. Their favorite foods are plants in the grass family such as corn, wheat, barley and alfalfa. They aren’t picky, however, and can eat many other types of plants. It’s not uncommon to see grasshoppers chewing on the leaves of a tree, and more eating the grass beneath it.
Grasshoppers peculiarly don’t have nests, territories or a general home base as they usually migrate to find new sources of food.
Most species are solitary, and only come together to mate, but the migratory species sometimes gather in huge groups of millions or even billions of individuals.
Grasshoppers mainly use sound and sight to communicate, though like animals, scent and touch are important during mating. In some species males vibrate their wings or rub their wings with their legs to make sounds that attract females.
Grasshoppers mate in late summer or fall. After mating the female will lay up to hundreds of egg pods in the ground. The eggs remain in the ground over winter, and they usually hatch in late May.
The nymphs that hatch from these pods go through multiple incomplete metamorphosis stages. This means that each stage looks a lot like the adult, but adds a few changes each time the young grasshopper sheds its skin. Grasshoppers usually shed 5 or 6 times. After the last time, they are adults and can reproduce. Most species also get wings when they are adults.
Grasshoppers have a wide range of predators; eggs are eaten by bee-flies, ground beetles and blister beetles; nymphs and adults are taken by other insects such as ants, robber flies, praying mantises and sphecid wasps, by spiders, by lizards and by many birds and small mammals.
Grasshoppers are not known for biting though they may occasionally bite a predator as a defense mechanism. Although grasshoppers have very strong jaws for tearing vegetation, they prefer jumping away to avoid capture rather than confronting predators.
Locusts are a type of grasshopper. They typically live alone, but are famous for forming giant swarms that can swoop down and destroy massive areas of crops.
The largest recorded locust swarm was one formed by the now-extinct Rocky Mountain locust in 1875; the swarm was 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) long and 180 kilometers (110 miles) wide, and one estimate puts the number of locusts involved as 3.5 trillion.
Grasshoppers existed long before dinosaurs, dating back to the early Triassic around 250 million years ago.
Grasshoppers are commonly eaten in African, Asian, Central and South American countries, the insect is a very good source of protein.
In Native America, the Ohlone people burned grassland to herd grasshoppers into pits where they could be collected as food.
It is recorded in the Bible that John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey while living in the wilderness.
When grasshoppers appear in dreams, these have been interpreted as symbols of “Freedom, independence, spiritual enlightenment, inability to settle down or commit to decision”.
In Japan, grasshoppers are seen as a sign of good luck.
In the 1998 Pixar film A Bug’s Life, the heroes are the members of an ant colony, and the lead villain and his henchmen are grasshoppers.