grasshopper it is an insect belonging to the suborder Caelifera. This group is among the oldest living group of herbivorous chewing insects, existing since the early Triassic years, about 250 million years ago. They are known for their great jumping ability, incredible in height and distance.

Species

There are 11.000 species of grasshoppers in the world. Within the suborder Caelifera there are five main families to distinguish them from other animals.

  • Family Acrididae: Composed of field grasshoppers and large-bodied locusts.
  • Eumastacidae family: Composed of grasshoppers that are able to blend in with the environment.
  • Tetrigidae family: Where are grouse locusts, pygmy grasshoppers and pygmy locusts.
  • Family Tridactylidae: Composed of pygmy crickets.

Among all species, grasshoppers can be classified into:

  • Green grasshopper: Grasshopper known for its green color and surprising size (over 3 cm in length). It has a visible brown line on the top of the head that extends down its body to the forewings. The wings are transparent.
  • Giant grasshoppers: Belonging to the Aerididae family and known as locusts, vultures or grasshoppers. They are characterized by their ability to migrate from one side to the other, despite the fact that they have wings, they do not fly much. For humans they are very problematic as they can cause devastating pests that end up with large agricultural areas.
  • Long-headed grasshopper: It is identified by its green color and by the brown stripes on its head. Its name is due to its long head that has short and flat antennas. The hind legs are long. When it gets angry it spreads its wings, makes noise and shows its pinkish red abdomen. It depends on its camouflage ability to survive.
  • Brook grasshopper: It owes its name to its ability to swim on the surface of the water. The body is green, shiny and smooth with black stripes on both sides of the body. The head and thorax are brown.
  • Stem and bark-mimicking grasshoppers: The color of this grasshopper is similar to the color of the branches hence its name. It has long antennae and both males and females are winged. By day they rest in the rough bark trees, blending in with the surroundings and avoiding predators. Bark-mimicking grasshoppers also rest on trees to go unnoticed.
  • Southeastern grasshopper: They are known to cause harm. Especially in Florida and the southeastern United States. It has wings but does not fly, so they move by jumping or walking.
  • White antenna grasshopper: Present largely in the prairies of North America. It is medium in size and reddish brown with a slightly sloping face. The antennas are white. The wings and hind legs are orange.

Features

The grasshopper grows to about 5 cm in length, although the largest species can reach up to 12 cm. Females are larger than males, with short ovipositors. The color ranges from green to olive green or brown and may have yellow or red markings.

Total lifespan is about one year, although it is quite likely only capable of living 3 months due to: diseases, drought, and predators. During its life it will complete three stages: eggs, nymph and adult. Ten months as an egg, 25 to 50 days as a nymph, and 30 days as an adult. The shelf life also depends on the weather. In cold climates they can only survive as eggs, since adults are unable to survive cold.

Like other insects, it has a body divided into three segments made up of the head, thorax and abdomen. The head is held vertically at an angle to the body, with the mouth at the bottom of the body.

Green grasshopper

Green grasshopper

Head

On the head are a large pair of eyes that are made up of complete vision, three simple eyes to detect light and darkness, and a pair of wire-shaped antennae, sensitive to touch and smell. The downward-facing mouthparts are modified for chewing and there are two sensory palps in front of the jaws.

The antennae are quite long, normally they are equal in length with the body of the grasshopper but sometimes they can be longer than the grasshopper itself. They use their long antennas to gather information from the environment.

Chest

Both the thorax and the abdomen are segmented and have a rigid rigid cuticle composed of overlapping plates made of chitin. The three fused thoracic segments contain three pairs of legs and two pairs of wings. The front wings, called tegmina, are narrow and leathery, and the rear wings are large and webbed, and the streaks are what give strength.

The posterior edge of the tibia has a double row of spines and a pair of articulated spurs are found at its lower end. The inside of the thorax contains the muscles that control the wings and legs.

Its six legs are fully articulated and are very powerful for a creature of its size, capable of jumping long distances. The two hind legs are long and powerful and are used only for jumping. The four front legs are used for walking and grabbing prey.

Abdomen

The abdomen contains eleven segments, the first one fuses with the thorax and houses the tympanic organ and the auditory system. Segments two through eight are ring-shaped and linked by flexible membranes. Segments nine through eleven have been reduced in size and segment nine bears a pair of cercerados and segments ten and eleven contain the reproductive organs.

Behavior

The grasshopper is active during the day, but it also hunts at night. They do not establish nests or territories, and some species use their wings to migrate long distances when it starts to get too cold or when food is scarce. They are solitary and only come together to mate, with the exception of migratory species that sometimes gather in groups of several thousand or millions of individuals.

The grasshopper makes sounds called "rattle" that are used to communicate with other limbs. It is normally generated by males to attract females.

When a grasshopper is caught it releases a brown liquid which is known as 'tobacco juice'. Scientists believe it may be a liquid that protects grasshoppers from predators. In case of attack they release the liquid, jump and fly quickly.

To escape predators they can jump into grass or leaves to hide among them. If you try to catch a grasshopper, you will see how quickly it can jump and disappear into the tall grass.

Habitat

The grasshopper inhabits herbaceous areas such as fields, meadows, and groves. They can live practically anywhere including the tropics, temperate grasslands, rainforest, desert, and mountains. They are most concentrated in lowland tropical forests, semi-arid regions, and grasslands.

Certain species are specialized in specific habitats. The South American Pauliniidae, spend most of their life in floating vegetation, actively swim and lay their eggs in underwater aquatic plants.

Distribution

It is present on all continents, with the exception of Antarctica.

Brown grasshopper

Brown grasshopper

Food

The grasshopper is a herbivorous animal, although some species are omnivorous and eat tissue and animal feces. The diet consists solely of plant matter. They feed on herbs, weeds, leaves, shrubs, bark ..., but their favorite food is cereals. Despite their size they eat a lot, they can consume 16 times their own weight.

Predators

The grasshopper is part of the daily diet of many predators. Predators include: reptiles, insects, small mammals, and birds. In some parts of Asia and Africa, it is common to feed on grasshoppers where the larger species of grasshoppers live and there are no alternative sources of protein.

Reproduction

Depending on the area, grasshopper reproduction begins between late Autumn and early Winter. The female grasshopper lays an egg pod that has a couple dozen grasshopper eggs. The pod is introduced into the ground so that it is a couple of centimeters underground. The eggs can take 9 months to hatch while they wait until the time has softened before going out into the outside world.

Babies are called nymphs. When the first hatches, it must break through the ground and rise to the surface. The rest will follow the same path traced by the original. As they grow, they increase in size until they become adults. It will only remain in the young and adult stages for a few months before dying, which means that most of its life is spent inside an egg.

State of conservation

The grasshopper is in danger of extinction on certain continents. The continent with the most endangered species is Europe with more than 700 species, so there are various campaigns to raise awareness about the preservation of grasshoppers.

Relationship with humans

In various cultures grasshoppers are consumed as food. In southern Mexico they are known as chapulines and are consumed in a wide variety of dishes, such as tortillas with chili sauce. They are also served on skewers in China. In the Gunung Kidul Regency region, Yogyakarta, Java, in Indonesia they are eaten fried. In the Bible it is written that John the Baptist ate locusts and wild honey to survive in the desert.

Grasshopper infestations can be devastating to human populations, causing famine and population disruption. Grasses, grains, forage, vegetables, and other crops can be affected. Pests occur when there are large periods of droughts, as they reproduce more when the weather is hot and the winter temperature is high, so more nymphs survive. The best way to prevent grasshoppers from becoming pests is by manipulating their environment. The shade of the trees will discourage them and they may be prevented from moving to the crops.

Popular culture

Grasshoppers have been depicted from time to time in works of art, such as Dutch Golden Age painter Balthasar van der Ast's oil painting of still life, Flowers in a Vase with Shells and Insects, c. 1630, now in the National Gallery in London, although there are discrepancies and there are people who maintain that it is a bush cricket. We can also find it in Rachel Ruysch's still life, Flowers in a Vase, c. 1685.

In the cinema they appear as villains in the 1998 Pixar film "Bugs", where they subdue the ants. In the children's animated series "Maya the Bee" one of the secondary characters was a grasshopper named Flip.

In the past, various cultures have adopted it as a symbol. In Greek times, it was the symbol of the polis of Athens, believed to be because it was the most common insect in the dry plains of Attica. The native Athenians wore golden grasshopper brooches to symbolize that they were of pure lineage. In London there is Sir Thomas Gresham's Golden Grasshopper on Lombard Street created in 1563.

If a grasshopper appears in dreams it has been interpreted as a symbol of "freedom, independence, spiritual enlightenment, inability to settle or commit to making decisions."

In literature one of the most famous fables is starring a grasshopper. The Ant and the Grasshopper, from Aesop's Fables. He says that the ant works hard during the summer, while the grasshopper makes sounds. In winter the ant is ready and safe, while the grasshopper starves. The unfaithful woman is called "grasshopper" (for jumping from man to man) in "Poprygunya," an 1892 short story by Anton Chekhov made into a film by Jerry Paris in 1969, called The Grasshopper.

The name "Grasshopper" was given to the Aeronca L-3 and Piper L-4 light aircraft, both used for reconnaissance and other support tasks in World War II.

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