Grasshoppers, Pacific Northwest
Grasshoppers belong to a large and diverse order of insects. Some are among the largest living insects, with bodies about 12 cm long and wingspans almost twice as great.
They have biting and chewing mouthparts and oversized hind legs that are modified for jumping. Most have a general ability, especially in males, to make loud noises when jumping or gliding. The order also has the ability to make sounds that are used for communication. These sounds are often the most important characteristics for separating closely related species. Creating sound is done by striking the abdomen with a ridge on the inside of the hind femur and others can make a snapping noise with their hind wings in flight.
Although most are not particularly strong fliers, wings are usually functional but sometimes they are absent. When fully developed, the fore wings, which are not used for flying, are usually leathery and narrower than the broad hind wings.
Females normally lay eggs on the ground in pods held together by a foamy secretion. Development is gradual and the nymphs resemble the adults from birth, just smaller. Most feed on plants, but some are omnivorous and a few are carnivorous.
Grasshoppers are particularly active in warm weather and sunshine. They do well in temperate climates.
The pallid-winged grasshopper can be found from British Columbia including all of Vancouver Island, south to Mexico and east to Montana.
The pallid-winged grasshopper is found in a wide range of habitats but is especially prevalent in sparsely vegetated areas. When we hike the high country, you see many of these grasshoppers.
They feed on vegetation, and when the population increases, it can be very damaging to grasslands and crops. They are in turn fed upon by any predators large enough to catch them.
The female will deposit up to twelve egg masses with around 100 eggs in each, she lays them below the soil with her stiff ovipositor. Grasshoppers overwinter as eggs and the nymphs emerge in the spring.
The pallid-winged grasshopper is hard to spot when resting, but when disturbed, they take flight with a clicking sound showing their back wings. After landing, the back wings are folded under the front wings and they disappear back into the environment.
The males sing during the day by rubbing their back legs against the front wings. This sound varies from one species to the next and may be used to attract females. The sound can change with the temperature of the environment also.
These grasshoppers will lay their eggs directly into the soil where they will remain until the following summer, the nymphs will hatch and feed through the fall, then they start the process over by laying eggs into the soil.
We have many here on the Island. Get out there and see for yourself, bring your camera. Keep your eyes open and you should see more types of insects.
Eggs hatch in May and June. Nymphs develop through five or six instars, during which they shed their skins, and mature in summer or fall, about 40 days after hatching.
Most grasshoppers live in their birth area throughout the year and are non-migratory. The Clear Winged grasshopper can make rapid flights of about 4 to 10 meters but stays in its territory.
They often breed in dry grass and brush surrounding orchards and along ditch banks. Then move into orchards in late summer. Grasshoppers are voracious eaters and have powerful jaws and sharp mandibles for chewing up all kinds of plant life. They particularly like grasses and flowering plants.
Only the adults fly.