Despite frequent appearances in gardens and meadows across the globe, the grasshopper contains several mysteries. This list of grasshopper facts reveals all you need to know about the behavior and biology of these diurnal insects.
There are various grasshoppers, such as the band-winged grasshopper, the rainbow grasshopper, and the short-horned grasshopper.
Here are two widely accepted facts about grasshoppers. First, they can leap distances up to 20 times their body length. Next, grasshoppers have auditory organs on their abdomen, which other insects do not have.
10 Essential Facts About Grasshoppers
1. Locusts are the same as grasshoppers, basically.
Both grasshoppers and locusts belong to the same insect order, Orthoptera, and the suborder Caelifera. Meanwhile, crickets and katydids belong to the suborder Ensifera. Members of the Caelifera suborder prefer a plant-based diet; their classifications do not consider antennae length and jumping ability3.
The main difference between grasshoppers and locusts is that the former is primarily solitary, while the latter tends to form groups. Locusts can form massive swarms, an ability known as phase polyphenism, depending on the population and environment.
However, not all grasshoppers can form such swarms, and the terms "grasshopper" and "locust" carry different meanings in entomology.
Read more: Types of Grasshoppers.
2. Grasshoppers are solitary, but they can swarm.
Next on our grasshopper facts list: These summertime critters lead a solitary life within their environment, camouflaging themselves with their green and brown bodies while nibbling on leaves.
However, sudden changes, such as food scarcity or population explosion, can disrupt their lifestyles. In such cases, grasshoppers change from their original colors to bright yellows or blacks. Their reproduction also accelerates.
Grasshopper transformation allows them to survive extreme conditions. Eventually, some species become locusts and form large swarms visible from space.
These swarms travel great distances searching for new pastures, causing severe damage to food crops. A lone grasshopper can eat half its body weight in plants daily but can't do much damage unless it joins a swarm.
3. Grasshoppers consume toxins.
Some species practice a unique survival strategy. While they eat plants, they also eat toxic ones, allowing them to eat nearly every vegetation in their habit, some of which are fatal to other bugs. After digestion, the toxins in grasshoppers' bodies turn them into effective chemical weapons. The toxic ones feature bright colors that warn predators to stay away.
4. Grasshoppers' ears are on their abdomens.
Another notable grasshopper fact is that their ears are on their abdomens. Specifically, their tympanal organs are under their wings on their first abdominal segment. While not ears, a grasshopper's auditory organs vibrate in response to sound waves. So, the grasshopper can hear the softest chirp from a fellow grasshopper.
Their hearing helps grasshoppers find mates and avoid predators. Moreover, the tympanal organs can determine the direction and distance of a sound based on the time lag between the sounds reaching each ear. This adaptation also helps some species pick up ultrasonic frequencies.
5. Grasshoppers spit as self-defense.
When threatened, these jumping insects "spit," expelling a brown liquid from their mouths1. While harmless to humans, the rancid spit allows grasshoppers to escape predators.
Scientists believe the spit, also known as "tobacco juice," contains partially eaten plants, a staple food of grasshoppers; the name likely came from the grasshoppers on tobacco farms. However, not all species of grasshoppers can spit.
Fun Fact: Did you know that experts found ancient grasshopper nymphs in amber and discovered that primitive grasshoppers lived over 300 million years ago?
6. Grasshoppers make sounds with their wings and legs.
Grasshoppers create an intricate melody using their wings and legs perched on leafy branches. Also known as "stridulation," this behavior involves grasshoppers brushing their hind legs against their wings to produce particular sounds. Coordination between the insect's nervous system and muscles has an effect.
Specifically, the ridges on their legs and the textured surface of their wings help them produce different sounds.
Grasshoppers can make sounds depending on temperature, humidity, age, and size. Therefore, a grasshopper's song provides information about its characteristics and current conditions. Additionally, most male grasshoppers stridulate to find mates.
7. Grasshoppers are expert leapers.
Another interesting grasshopper fact is that an adult grasshopper can jump up to 20 times their body length, similar to a human leaping across a tennis court in one jump. Despite their size, they possess incredible athletic ability and power.
Grasshoppers can jump far because their solid hind legs work like a little coiled spring. Their legs have a flexor muscle that slowly contracts once they are about to jump, bending their legs at the knee like a compressed spring. When the grasshopper leaps, it releases the energy from its legs, propelling it forward and upward with great force.
Moreover, the grasshopper's light exoskeleton supports its muscles, allowing the insect to perform these athletic jumps.
8. Grasshoppers are terrific sources of protein.
In Africa and Asia, grasshoppers are becoming a popular food choice. They are commonly eaten for their high protein content, reaching 72% by dry weight. On the other hand, beef has an average protein content of around 26%.
Over the centuries, various cultures have eaten grasshoppers due to their affordability, abundance, and nutritional value2. For example, the Bible mentions that John the Baptist ate locusts in the wilderness.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has begun promoting eating insects as an eco-friendly diet. This advocacy comes from ongoing concerns about food security issues worldwide.
Besides their high protein content, insects require less land, water, and feed than traditional livestock. Furthermore, they produce fewer greenhouse gases and ammonia.
9. Grasshoppers are indicator animals.
Changes in temperature and rainfall affect grasshoppers' behavior and populations; they can reliably predict the weather. Moreover, their survival depends on the abundance of plants.
So, a sudden drop in their population could signal more significant environmental problems like habitat loss, pollution, or overgrazing.
The variety of grasshopper species helps us determine the ecological balance and health of the environment. A diverse grasshopper population often indicates a healthy environment, while the disappearance of more sensitive species could mean environmental stress.
10. Grasshopper populations are stable.
Despite environmental challenges, grasshopper populations remain stable. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) does not consider most species threatened or endangered.
Despite their stability, certain species struggle against habitat deterioration and climate change. Specific regions suffer pronounced habitat loss from deforestation, agricultural expansion, and urbanization. Meanwhile, climate change can alter or disrupt their food sources, affecting their populations.
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Related: To further explore the animal kingdom, check out some of the other animals that start with G.
Sword, G. A. (2001). Tasty on the outside, but toxic in the middle: grasshopper regurgitation and host plant-mediated toxicity to a vertebrate predator. Oecologia, 128(3), 416–421.
Van Huis, A., Van Itterbeeck, J., Klunder, H., Mertens, E., Halloran, A., Muir, G., & Vantomme, P. (2013). Edible insects: future prospects for food and feed security (No. 171). FAO forestry paper.
Simpson, S. J., & Sword, G. A. (2008). Locusts. Current Biology, 18(9), R364-R366.