Random Insect: Differential grasshopper

Differential grasshopper (Orthoptera: Acrididae: Melanoplus differentialis) photographed 09/28/2011 near Palmyra Michigan.

A year ago I went into a little detail about the difference between the two suborders of the order Orthoptera (the grasshoppers).  That post mentioned the long-horned grasshoppers (suborder Ensifera) and the short-horned grasshoppers (suborder Caelifera).  The most common  short-horned grasshoppers belong to the family Acrididae.  The other day I found one such Acridid sitting on a raspberry leaf in my yard and it prompted me to go into a bit more detail on that member of this family.

The individual shown here is a differential grasshopper (Orthoptera: Acrididae: Melanoplus differentialis).  It’s a member of the largest subfamily of the Acrididae, known as the Melanoplinae.  It’s also a member of the most common genus in that subfamily, Melanoplus.  This genus includes some of the most destructive crop pests known to man (Triplehorn and Johnson 2005) .

Differential grasshopper (Orthoptera: Acrididae: Melanoplus differentialis) photographed 09/28/2011 near Palmyra Michigan.

Although there are many characteristics that set this species apart, the most obvious are probably the bold black-on-yellow chevron patterns on the hind femora.  Other members of the genus exhibit similar patterns, but also have other characteristics that distinguish them.

Differential grasshopper (Orthoptera: Acrididae: Melanoplus differentialis) photographed 09/28/2011 near Palmyra Michigan.

Bugguide.net calls this insect a “significant crop pest in the midwest,” and Triplehorn and Johnson (2005) cite it as one of four members of this subfamily responsible for crop damage in the United States.  Fortunately I now have this potentially destructive little critter under glass in my collection.  Judging by the relatively small size and small abdomen as well as the pale coloration, I suspect this was a male.  Who knows how many crop-devouring offspring he could have fathered.

Literature cited:

Triplehorn, C.A. and N.F. Johnson.  2005.  Borror and DeLong’s Introduction to the Study of Insects.  Seventh Edition.  Thomson Brooks/Cole, Belmont, CA.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Entomology, Random Insect and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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