Sunday, October 5, 2014

Obscure Birdwing Grasshopper

Obscure Bird-Wing Grasshoppers (Schistocerca obscura) are extremely large grasshoppers that can be found from the Northeastern United States westward to Arizona. They are very common in the Midwestern states. Females are larger than males and according to they may reach 65 mm or a little over 2 1/2 inches. I swear that this specimen was much larger than 2 1/2 inches, it was easily 3 inches or more in length. Absolutely the largest grasshopper I've ever seen. There were several other birdwings in the area, and all we more typically sized for the species. This one was like the Arnold Schwarzenegger of grasshoppers. He had probably gorged himself on the multitude of tomatoes and other garden veggies that were left over from our summer garden. I tried numerous times to catch him, but he proved to fast and hoppy for me to succeed. I wanted to get a measurement on him so badly. 

Fields and open woodlands are their usual habitats, but I find them frequently by the garden or in flower beds. I would assume like any grasshopper they go where the food is. They can on occasion become a pest to garden plants or prized flowers, but generally speaking they pose no significant threat and eat on wild grasses, forbes and other plants. 

Grasshoppers seem to be prolific this year and are everywhere in large numbers. They are beneficial to wildlife who will gorge on them in autumn. It is not uncommon to find the craw of a turkey full of grasshoppers, especially young turkeys who seem to favor the tasty little buggers. Other animals such as bobcats, foxes, mice, frogs and all sorts of birds find the bounty to their liking as well. What a great way to find protein without a lot of effort.

These grasshoppers can be difficult to identify as there are other similar birdwing species. This one is a vibrant green color with a gorgeous yellow stripe down the back. The wings are dark brown and the antennae are also yellow. In my area it tends to be the most common birdwing, therefore it would be hard to mistake for anything else, as there is very little to compare it to. However, if you live in areas where other birdwings are common, it may prove difficult to ID.

Mating takes place in the fall and females use their ovipositor to deposit eggs under the soil. The eggs overwinter and hatch in the spring. The nymphs are born looking very much like the adults, minus wings and adult coloring. They will molt up to 9 times before reaching adult size in mid to late summer. Adults die over winter so all grasshoppers spotted are that current years hatch.  


  1. I got a good close-up on my windshield., one stayed for quite a long time. My cats and dogs are catching a few and bringing them to me.

    1. I mentioned wildlife liked them, but forgot to include our furry friends. Cats and dogs love them. They are fun to catch and apparently tasty to eat too.

    2. Yes! Easily more than 3 inches. I called it brown-back. So glad I found this website with the correct name. Thanks for the great picture.