Grasshoppers, leaping insects of the order Orthoptera, include all locusts. However, not all grasshoppers are locusts. The main difference between the locusts and other grasshoppers is the length of their horns (antennae). Locusts (Acrididae) have shorter antennae than other grasshoppers (Tettigoniidae). The amazing leaps of grasshoppers are due to long, slender hind legs with large thighs. These leaps are each many times the grasshopper's body length. Most grasshoppers also have large, straight, delicate hindwings, which enable flight. When a grasshopper is at rest, these wings are folded up and protected by tough front wings that cover them entirely. Grasshoppers are found in most areas of the world except for northern Canada, Greenland, northern Asia, northwest Africa,West Australia, and the Arctic and Antarctic regions. Long-horned grasshoppers are herbivores and found wherever vegetation grows. Their threadlike antennae are longer than their bodies. They are related to katydids. When endangered, they spit out brown liquid called "tobacco juice", and take huge, vigorous leaps to escape. The green color of these grasshoppers conceals them in grass, where they eat pieces of grass leaves and stems. Long-horned grasshoppers do not usually eat crop plants. Short-horned grasshoppers, locusts, are called true grasshoppers because they live only in grasses and leaves. They are well known for traveling in huge swarms that lay bare whole farms or whole regions of countries. The huge populations of swarms and the destruction they have caused are mentioned in the Bible. Schistocera perigrina, a North African locust, may have been the species described in the biblical account of the plagues of Egypt.
Physical Characteristics of Grasshoppers
Grasshoppers are one to eight inches long when fully grown. Some species undergo seasonal color changes, being green at some times and red, olive, or brown at others. Like other insects, the grasshopper body is divided into three parts: head; thorax, or mid-section; and abdomen, or hindsection. A grasshopper's antennae, which have tactile functions, are found on its head. Each grasshopper has a pair of compound eyes with many lenses, located on the front of its head. Grasshoppers also have three pairs of legs, extending from the thorax. The last pair is much larger and longer than the others and enables jumping. Grasshoppers eat leaves, roots, and stems of grasses, herbs, and shrubs, chewing with strong mandibles (jaws), moving these jaws from side to side to break apart their food. Most grasshoppers have two pairs of wings along the back of the abdomen. Two hard forewings serve as protection and two membranous hindwings are used to fly. When a grasshopper is not flying, its hindwings fold up and are covered and protected by its forewings. All long-horned grasshoppers "sing" by rubbing the bases of their forewings together. Some male locusts make calls to females by rubbing their hind legs against their wings, and others do so by rubbing their hind legs or forewings against other parts of their bodies. The hearing organs of long-horned grasshoppers are small growths just beneath the knee joints of their front legs. In short-horned grasshoppers, these ears are clear, circular areas on the abdomen at points just behind the junction of hind legs and body. In females, growths shaped like sickles are located at the rear of the abdomen. These ovipositors drill holes in grass, twigs, or the ground, where eggs are deposited. Ovipositors of short-horned grasshoppers are specially designed to deposit pouches of eggs in the ground.
Grasshopper Life Cycles
In the spring, grasshoppers hatch from eggs as pale, wingless nymphs (larvae). Then, within ninety days, they develop into fullgrown locusts, molting four to five times in the process. Mature insects mate, and about a week later, females lay the eggs for the next generation. They die a few weeks after this. Locusts, such as the Rocky Mountain locust (Melanoplus spretus), lay their eggs in holes in the ground in the fall. The eggs hatch in the spring, and young reach maturity in July or August. Those of long-horned grasshoppers, such as meadow grasshoppers (Orchelimum vulgare) are laid in low bushes or crevices in tree bark. Not only do locusts eathuman crops, but in turn, humans have eaten them for centuries. For example, Talmudic law exempts locusts and other grasshoppers from the taboo on eating flying or creeping creatures "going on all fours." Also, Shakespeare's play Othello mentions food "luscious as locusts." Candied locusts are eaten throughout China and the Philippines. In North Africa, locusts dried and ground into powder are mixed into flour used to bake bread.
Order: Orthoptera (grasshoppers and related species)
Families: Include Acrididae (short-horned grasshoppers, locusts), Tettigoniidae (long-horned grasshoppers) Geographical location: Most world locations, except Arctic and Antarctic regions, northern Canada, Greenland, northern Asia, northwest Africa, and West Australia
Habitat: Grass and shrubbery
Gestational period: Natural gestation time is uncertain, as eggs laid in the fall do not hatch until spring
Life span:Ayear in temperate to cool climates, indeterminate in the tropics
Special anatomy: Six legs, three on each side of the thorax; two pairs of wings, two hard forewings that serve as protection for two membranous hindwings used in flying; ears on or near legs;compoundeyes
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