Red-Legged Grasshoppers (Melanoplus femurrubrum) are in the sub-family of grasshoppers known as Spur-throated grasshoppers.These are very common grasshoppers and are found throughout all of the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico. They are probably one of the most widespread of all the grasshoppers. They are found in weedy, grassy areas especially near cultivated land, meadows, roadsides, prairies, open woods and backyards. They feed on a wide variety of grasses and forbes. This will include many forage crops like clover and alfalfa. These are not a large grasshopper, in comparison to the much larger differential grasshopper these are rather small to medium sized grasshoppers. They can vary in color from dull reddish to brown. The hind legs have a reddish tint to them, from whence they get their common name. Females will lay eggs within the ground, and these eggs overwinter.
In the spring they hatch and begin feeding on grasses. As they grow to adulthood they will
consume large amounts of grasses and can be very injurious to numerous forage crops. In large numbers they can cause significant financial losses to these agricultural industries. They are a "Boom or Bust" species whose populatoins fluctuate depending on the food sources available to them. In times of food shortages they will grow longer wings made for long distance flying and will travel to new locations where food sources are better. On rare occasions they have shown a tendency to large mass flights, but this is rare. They usually tend to be solitary in their lifestyle. I find these little hoppers all over near our garden and the grassy areas near our old pond. They are secretive and somewhat hard to approach. I find them to be a challenge to take photographs of as they are quick to startle and hop or fly away and are capable of flying for distances up to 40 feet. This past summer and fall was a great grasshopper season with excessive amounts of these hoppers all over the place. The mild winter of last year and the wet mild spring and summer seemed to be conducive to grasshopper populations.
If you raise chickens or other fowl
Poultry tapeworms and other poultry parasites use this species as an intermediate host, so chickens, turkeys and other poultry that eat these grasshoppers can potentially acquire these parasites. Various flies, worms, slugs, snails, ants, beetles and more can be vectors for poultry parasites, too.
In addition wild game birds such as turkey and quail consume these grasshoppers, which can at times be abundant. As with domestic fowl, wild fowl can acquire parasites from eating these grasshoppers. Fortunately, unless the infestation is severe or the bird weakened, the parasites don’t usually cause death.