Grasshoppers are flying insects belonging to the order Orthoptera and fall under the suborder Caelifera. Around 11,000 species of grasshoppers exist as of today and the majority of grasshoppers are herbivores. However, some species are omnivorous as they also consume animal tissues and faeces. Grasshoppers vary in size, with most adult grasshoppers averaging between 1 to 7 cm in length.
Due to their minuscule size, grasshoppers fall prey to many predators like frogs, snakes, wasps and toads in their egg stage. During mating season, the male grasshopper deposits his sperm in the abdomen region of the female grasshopper, which travels to the egg through the canal known as micropyles. Grasshoppers are hemimetabolous insects. Hence, their life cycle consists of three stages – the egg, the nymph, and the adult. This type of life cycle, where there are three stages is called incomplete metamorphosis; on the other hand, a complete metamorphosis has four distinct stages.
Related link: Dragonfly Life Cycle
Locusts and Grasshoppers
Both grasshoppers and locusts are insects that belong to the Acrididae family. Locusts are grasshoppers that form a swarm under preferable conditions. Examples of such preferable conditions include dense vegetation growth after a long period of zero vegetation. Locusts have higher flight capabilities when compared to a grasshopper. Even though both have similar looks, grasshopper differs from locusts their structure.
The grasshopper undergoes incomplete metamorphosis. The three stages from conception to adult in a grasshopper’s life cycle are as follows:
- The Egg: After fertilization, the female grasshopper lays the eggs either underneath the soil or on leaf litters. The female then sprays a sticky substance on the eggs to form an egg pod. An egg pod contains between 10 to 300 eggs. The eggs remain under the sand or amongst leaf litters during the autumn and winter season. After ten months, during summer or spring when it’s warm, the eggs hatch and come out as nymphs.
- The Nymph: As the nymphs emerge from their respective eggs, they wander around looking for plant foliage to consume. The nymph looks similar to the adult grasshopper but its reproductive organs and wings are absent. Moulting is the process through which the animal sheds skin to form new growth. Here, the nymph undergoes five to six stages of moulting before it becomes an adult. This stage of the nymph’s life span lasts for about six weeks until it transforms into an adult grasshopper.
- The Adult: Once the nymph has entered 25 to 30 days into the adult stage, it starts to develop wings. These adult grasshoppers acquire sexual maturity within 15 days. Unlike the nymph, the adult grasshopper has more mobility and the ability to hunt and escape from predators. Even though the lifespan of a grasshopper is 12 months, there is only a 50% chance that these adults survive because of large predators like birds, snakes and lizards.
Even though the life cycle of a grasshopper is unpredictable, they have a very vital role to play in the mechanisms of the food chain. Grasshoppers provide food to many animals and help in maintaining the structure of the ecosystem.
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Frequently Asked Questions – Grasshopper Life Cycle
Why and how do grasshoppers jump?
An adult grasshopper has long hind legs and the reason they jump is to escape from incoming predators.
What is the difference between grasshoppers and locusts?
In grasshoppers, the front wings are thin and rigid while the wings outside are wide and flexible. Whereas locusts have longer and stronger wings to enhance their flight abilities. Although locusts have better flight characteristics compared to a grasshopper, the body of locusts is smaller than a grasshopper.
Are grasshoppers poisonous?
They are not poisonous but if a grasshopper is disturbed, then they employ various chemical defence mechanisms to deter predators. One such mechanism is, that they vomit the contents of their stomach, which can emit a foul odour and are capable of repelling predators.
Grasshopper does not have ears but is able to pick up vibrations. How?
The anatomy of a grasshopper is divided into head, thorax and abdomen. In the abdomen region, a large membrane called the Tympanum is present. It is known as the hearing organ of the grasshopper as it can pick up vibrations. Biologists have also noted that this organ shares many characteristics with a drum. The tympanum is located near the base of the hind legs.