Readers’ wildlife photos

Send in your good wildlife (or people) photos. Today’s contribution, a panoply of orthopterans, is from regular Mark Sturtevant, and I’ve indented his informative captions.

This set of insect pictures has a pretty obvious theme.

First up is the striking coral-winged grasshopper (Pardalophora apiculata). The large adult has hind wings that are bright pinkish-orange, as is shown in the linked picture. It is pretty startling when one of these robust grasshoppers launches from near your feet.

Included with these are pictures of nymphs of the same species. The nymphs start to appear late in the summer, and they overwinter so that adults make their first appearance by late spring. The last one looks like a total “unit”!

Next is what is called the migratory grasshopper (Melanoplus sanguinipes), which is extremely common although I had overlooked it because it strongly resembles the common red-legged grasshopper. In some areas, migratory grasshoppers can build to very large numbers and migrate en masse to new feeding grounds.

The mating pair shown in the next picture is another new species for me. This is the green-legged grasshopper (Melanoplus viridipes). They have vestigial wings.

A large and graceful flying grasshopper in my area is the spotted bird grasshopper, as shown in the next picture. This particular species is Schistocerca lineata. Members of this genus include swarming locusts, but our species is not like that even though it resembles the locusts of biblical fame. They come in a wide range of regional color variations, including a brightly colored ‘aposematic form’ when they feed on a toxic host plant. The linked picture shows aposematic forms, which look strikingly different. This individual was content to sit on my hand for pictures so long as she was allowed to bite me. It was not a comfortable experience.

A northern striped grasshopper (Chortophaga viridifasciata) is shown in the next picture. What is odd is that I only ever see this species in a particular field near my home and nowhere else.

A rather strange group are the pygmy grasshoppers. These are indeed very small, and the adult shown in the next picture is maybe 1 cm long. This one is probably in the genus Tetrix, but that is as far as I know. Pygmy grasshoppers have the pronotum (a dorsal plate on the thorax) extended to completely cover their abdomen. If you look carefully you can see that it has vestigial front wings.

Now what is the tiny insect shown in the last picture? The adult insect shown here is a ‘pygmy mole cricket’, and it is about the size of a grain of rice. Dozens of them were hopping in the grasses along a river bank, which is the sort of place where one commonly sees them. They are able to float and even hop on water with the help of extra-long spurs on their hind legs.

Besides being rather adorable, pygmy mole crickets are a taxonomic surprise since they are not mole crickets (which are a family of burrowing crickets), or even crickets for that matter. I hope you are sitting down, because they are actually classified within the same suborder as grasshoppers (!), although currently they are in their own ‘infraorder’ to separate them from the families that look like grasshoppers. This particular species isEllipes minuta.

 

11 Comments

  1. Posted August 20, 2020 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Lovely pics & notes. Lucky chap to be able to see all these species. Where are you?

    • Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      I live in Michigan.

      • Posted August 20, 2020 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        Not too far from PCC[E] then! Comparatively… do they over winter in larval stages?

        • Posted August 20, 2020 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

          Most species overwinter as eggs, so the spring sees a lot of tiny nymphs hopping about. But I have come to appreciate that there are a few species here, besides the coraline band-wing, which overwinter as nymphs. They must hunker down somewhere. When I’ve been out on usually warm days in February or so, I can sometimes see mid-stage nymphs that were awakened by the warm temperatures.

  2. rickflick
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Formidable beasts. The grass hopper was the first critter I studied carefully as kid. I found a book with diagrams and names of parts which made me feel like a real scientist.

  3. Posted August 20, 2020 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    I never knew grasshoppers are so varied. I will observe them more carefully from now on. Thanks for the excellent photos.

  4. phar84
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    The Las Vegas Strip had swarms of grasshoppers last summer. Never found out why they would go to surely die there.

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Wow….so many kinds of grasshoppers!

  6. GregZ.
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

    Good stuff.

  7. tjeales
    Posted August 20, 2020 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful and Fascinating Mark. It was an orthopteran that first got me into insect and arthropod photography and this is a great set. I hadn’t heard of Tridactylids before but it seems there are representatives here in Australia so I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled


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