Phylum, Arthropoda; Class, Insecta; Order, Orthoptera

Identifying Features

Appearance (Morphology)

  • Brown, with some darker markings
  • Black herringbone pattern on hind femur
  • Big hind legs for jumping
  • 2 pairs of wings: forewings narrow and relatively hard; hind wings large, membranous
  • Antennae not very long, 20-24 segments
  • Conspicuous eyes
  • Cerci (pair of appendages at end of abdomen) unjointed

Adult Males and Females
Males have a single unpaired plate at the end of abdomen. Female has two pairs of valves (triangle shapes) at end of abdomen used to dig in sand when egg laying.

Immatures (different stages)
In very young stage, the grasshopper has no wings. In later stages, wings are visible as small pads at end of thorax.

Natural History

Many species of grasshoppers are general herbivores feeding on a variety of plants. Some species only like grasses.

Widespread in U.S.

Birds, lizards,mantids, spiders, and rodents eat grasshoppers.

Interesting Behaviors
Feeding: Although they eat many things, they still have preferences. Mating behavior: See how male courts female. Egg-laying: Female digs hole with abdomen. Some grasshoppers spit a brown bitter liquid as a defensive behavior in response to being handled. Use a piece of white paper and gently wipe the grasshopper's mouth if the spit is not evident. Before molting, grasshoppers do not eat and become less active. During the molt, they swallow air to build up pressure to split the old cuticle.

Impact on the Ecosystem

As herbivores, grasshoppers link plants to the rest of the ecosystem. Frass (droppings) contribute to nutrient turnover by returning nutrients as fertilizer for the plants. They provide food for birds and other arthropods.

Sometimes some species of grasshopper occur in very large numbers and cause serious crop damage and loss of plants in pastures.

Collecting Live Insects

Where to find
Grasshoppers are around in the spring and summer, but are most noticeable in the autumn. Areas with many grasses, small "vacant" lots and gardens are good places to start looking. Look at the area as you walk through. If you can hear the plants moving as you walk there are most likely grasshoppers around. Look during the middle of the day for best results. At night, use a flashlight to find grasshoppers roosting on the leaves. In the summer and autumn, some grasshoppers fly into porch lights.

How to collect
Encourage students to bring in grasshoppers. Catching grasshoppers may require patience and determination. Once grasshoppers have wings, many species can fly faster than you can run. Those without wings are easier to chase. Grasshoppers are perceptive and can sense you when you are several feet away. If they are on a plant and you try to grab them, they will move around the stem and often drop off the plant. You can swing an insect net or place the net over the plant while holding up the bottom of the net. With your hand gently coax grasshoppers into the net. They will walk or jump up into the net. Once in the net, gently pick up the grasshopper and place it in a container. It is also possible to collect grasshoppers by very slowly moving a glass or plastic vial towards the grasshopper's head and they will jump into it.

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Green Tree Ants

The green tree ant found in Northern Australia is a type of weaver ant found in many parts of the world. The Australian species (Oecophylla smaragdina) is commonly referred to as either a green tree ant or weaver ant. They are called weaver ants because they weave a nest together out of leaves.

In Australia they are only found in the Northern regions. They occur in forested areas both in Northern Western Australia and also in the Northern Territory and Queensland. In Queensland they spread down the coastal fringe as far south as Rockhampton, and can often be found in fruit orchards.

Weaver Ants build nests by joining leaves together with a sticky substance produced from their lavae. Many ants work together to construct these nests which can finish up being 300 - 500 mm long in a roughly oval shape. As they are made from the leaves of the tree in which the nest is, they are quite well camouflaged.

Tree ants aggressively defend their nests biting intruders. Acid from the tip of their abdomen causes pain and discomfort which generally drives off the invader.

The ant's body is a green or even a pale yellow, and its mandibles (Jaws) have 10+ teeth.

Green tree ants forage both for vegetation (eg nectar) and for invertebrates (insects), both on the ground and on vegetation. The ants also feed on excretions from aphids and scale insects.

The Queen Ant is located in one nest, but her eggs are distributed through the other nests of the colony.

Green Tree Ants have few preditors but jumping spiders, which look and smell like them, can invade the nests and eat the ants and the larvae.

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