Despite their tiny size, grasshoppers play a huge role in our ecosystem by contributing to plant decomposition and growth and creating a balance between the kinds of plants that grow.
Grasshoppers may be known to humans as garden pests, but we can’t ignore the fact that they also facilitate the growth of plants, allowing the ecosystem to thrive.
One common question about grasshoppers is whether they drink water.
Although grasshoppers don’t normally drink water, they do end up consuming water from the plants they eat.
However, it is possible for them to drink water, and they’re known to sometimes sip water from condensed moisture or raindrops on leaves.
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No, grasshoppers generally can’t live in water. In fact, most of them can’t even swim.
There are, however, some grasshopper species that can skate across water. That’s because the water’s buoyancy allows them to stay afloat for a period of time.
Still, most grasshoppers, which primarily live on land, can’t survive for a long time in the water.
As herbivores, grasshoppers mainly eat plants, including weeds, grass, shrubbery, flowers, bark, leaves, and seeds.
They’re also known to consume clover, cotton, corn, wheat, oats, rye, alfalfa, and barley.
Sometimes they eat dead insects so they can have extra protein.
Some grasshoppers consume toxic plants, storing the toxins from the plants in their bodies to discourage predators from eating them.
Different Grasshopper Species?
Grasshoppers aren’t all the same. Although many of them possess similar physical attributes, such as two wing sets and large hind legs, there are several grasshopper species all over the world, each with its own unique characteristics.
Here are some of the most common grasshopper species:
- Katydids – Also known as bush crickets or long-horned grasshoppers, Katydids are characterized by their large hind legs, thick and curvy ovipositor, and long antennae. Although Katydids are known for making noises that sound like “katy-did” (hence, their name), each Katydid species has its own distinct sound that it creates through stridulation. Katydids normally make their sounds when reproducing or putting themselves in defensive mode when threatened. Ranging in size from 1 cm to 6 cm, Katydids are typically bright green, although some of them are pink and yellow.
- Cone-headed grasshoppers – As the name suggests, cone-headed grasshoppers can be identified by their cone-shaped heads. They’re also characterized by their light green or brown bodies, which are slender and around 4 cm long. People should avoid trying to catch these creatures since they’re known to bite with their powerful jaws as a form of self-defense. Like Katydids, cone-headed grasshoppers, insects that primarily live in grasslands or weeds, are known for their song, which is typically made up of one note that they repeat again and again to create a melody.
- Meadow grasshoppers – Ranging from small to medium size, meadow grasshoppers can usually be found near bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, and streams. Besides being small in size, they’re also slender, which keeps them light and agile. Unlike most other grasshoppers, they enjoy being in water near underwater plants and often remain underwater for several minutes at a time. Meadow grasshoppers go through stages of development, starting off as wingless nymphs and turning into winged adults. As they get older, they shed their exoskeletons and increasingly feed on grass and other plants.
- Spur-throated grasshoppers – The most common grasshopper species in North America, spur-throated grasshoppers come in a broad range of colors, including red, green, brown, orange, and yellow. Females can lay as many as 20 eggs, which they sit over throughout winter in the soil. Usually, spur-throated grasshoppers can be spotted in meadows and open fields flying from place to place. Because they feed on many kinds of vegetation, they’re often considered by humans to be highly destructive.
- Band-winged grasshoppers – This species, which displays colorful hindwings, is believed to produce a crackling noise during flight. When they’re not flying, they conceal their hindwings with their forewings, allowing them to blend in with their environment. When they feel threatened, they jump and expose their bold, colorful wings. And because of their striking wings, they’re often mistaken for butterflies by their predators.
The Lifecycle of Grasshoppers
The life cycle of grasshoppers, which comprises three stages, is quite simple.
- Stage 1: Egg – In this stage, the female grasshopper lays eggs in leaf litter or under the sand during the summer. Afterwards, she sprays a sticky substance on the eggs, which eventually hardens and creates a waterproof pod around the eggs. Depending on the species, each pod contains between 10 and 300 eggs. Typically, female grasshoppers can lay up to around 25 pods. After about 10 months, during the summer, the eggs hatch and out come the nymphs.
- Stage 2: Nymph – Although nymphs resemble adult grasshoppers, they lack wings and reproductive capabilities. It’s during the nymph stage that they shed five to six times and grow into adult grasshoppers, a process referred to as molting. For survival, nymphs feed on succulents and foliage right after hatching. The nymph stage of the life cycle lasts for roughly five to six weeks until it becomes a fully-fledged adult grasshopper.
- Stage 3: Adult – It takes about one month for the grasshopper to develop a full set of wings and become an adult. Grasshoppers live for about 12 months, including their egg and nymph stages. It’s during the adult stage that females are ready to lay eggs. They lay eggs at intervals of roughly three or four days until they eventually die. What this means is that once the grasshopper reaches its adult phase, it only lives for a couple more months.
Because their life cycle is made up of three stages rather than four, they go through what’s known as incomplete metamorphosis.
On the other hand, insects that go through four stages, such as ants and butterflies, undergo what we refer to as complete metamorphosis.
Anyone who has ever handled grasshoppers has likely had a few of them spit liquid on them.
This liquid, which is usually brown in color, is believed by scientists to be a means of self-defense since the liquid is known to repel predators.
Some people claim that grasshoppers spit “tobacco juice,” since grasshoppers have long been associated with tobacco crops.
The majority of grasshoppers die from diseases, weather conditions, or predators. Because they’re mainly solitary creatures, it’s easy for them to fall prey to other animals.
These are some of their most common predators:
- Birds – Birds that feast on grasshoppers include blue jays, blackbirds, bluebirds, and hawks. Because grasshoppers are packed with protein, blue jays particularly enjoy eating grasshoppers, especially during the summer months. Also, the fats that blue jays acquire from grasshoppers allow them to sustain large amounts of energy during mating and breeding season.
- Small mammals – These include raccoons, shrews, bats, opossums, rodents, and red foxes. Although diurnal insects, grasshoppers like to feed at night, which is advantageous to bats, as they often make large swoops towards unsuspecting grasshoppers in the dark. North American shrews like to feast on grasshoppers by first biting off their heads and then slowly eating their internal organs. Raccoons like to snatch grasshoppers when they’re asleep, firmly grasping the grasshoppers with their fingers before quickly eating the insects with their sharp teeth. Other mammals that like to prey on grasshoppers are dogs and cats.
- Other insects – Other insects, such as spiders, sphecid wasps, ground beetles, robber flies, ants, bee flies, and field crickets, often feed on grasshoppers no matter the lifecycle stage the grasshoppers are in. They catch and eat grasshoppers in a variety of ways. For example, while the robber fly catches its grasshopper prey by piercing it with its proboscis, wasps hold their prey with their legs and sting them until they’re paralyzed.