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) .
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.
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.
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.