Friday, August 20, 2010

Spotted Bird Grasshopper

Spotted Bird Grasshoppers (Schistocerca lineata NO TAXON-typical) are one of 50 species in the same group of grasshoppers that are typically called locusts. The locusts are famous for their swarming capabilities. Millions of these grasshoppers would gather and swarm in huge black clouds that would descend on fields and destroy crops. Many years ago in the United States settlers were faced with huge swarms of Rocky Mountain Locusts. These swarms would blacken out the sky and create fear and dread in all who seen them coming. Nothing would be left behind when these hungry beasts would appear. There was a swarm in the mid 1800's that was reported to be larger than the whole state of California. The swarm was estimated to carry trillions of these locusts. The Rocky Mountain Locust is now extinct in our country and no one seems to have a definitive answer as to why. The last reported live specimen was in Canada in 1902.  I guess we should just be grateful they aren't plaguing us and not ask too many questions. All grasshoppers within this genus have the ability to swarm and some do seem to gather in large numbers, but fortunately nothing as Biblical as the Locust Plague of Moses' time. Or as awful as the Rocky Mountain Locust swarms of our own country's past. In Africa and other countries they are still plagued by huge locust swarms and chemicals such as DDT that has been banned here in the US are still being used there in large quantities to try and control mass population explosions of these eating machines.

 The Spotted Bird Grasshopper is very wide spread and common throughout the Great Plains and Prairie States east of the Rockies. They favor fields and open areas with herbaceous or woody plants to feed on. If they occur in large enough numbers they can cause significant damage to crops. There is some difficulty in identifying this species. Their color can vary by region and if crossbreeding is occurring. This particular species can be brownish, olive, tan or greenish in color. A bold stripe down the back is typical of most bird grasshoppers, and this species seems to have spots on the thorax which probably what earned it the common name of Spotted Bird Grasshopper. They are very large and may reach lengths up to 3 inches. The hind tibiae (lower legs) are usually brown or black.

The mating cycle of these grasshoppers is very similar to that of other grasshoppers. They will mate in late summer and the female will lay an egg mass in the soil that may contain up to 20 or more eggs. These eggs will overwinter and in the spring the young nymphs will emerge. They will look very similar to the adults but lack wings. In warmer climates the adults may overwinter as well.

These grasshoppers are reported to be good fish bait, and I can certainly see why. Their size alone would attract a hungry fish.


  1. Here in SoCal, we have the Gray Bird grasshopper, which is one of my favorites because their nymphs are the masters of camouflage. They can be found in a dazzling array of colors. (I have a little slide show of them on the upper sidebar of my blog. Want to see?)
    Is the same true for the spotted bird nymphs?

  2. I have no idea if the Spotted Bird Grasshopper has the same camo techniques as the Gray Bird Gr'hopper. I did not find anything that indicated that they do. I checked out your slideshow, they really are quite beautiful and so different.

  3. A show on PBS used the arrival of locusts as a harvest time for them in Africa.MMMMM roasted locust.Will have to see Cindy's slideshow.Getting a book discussing an anxiety disorder in children not getting out in nature.

  4. I am planning our 3rd annual Insect-o-rama at our office on September 11. We have a gentleman coming to cook insects for us. One of the things he is cooking is grasshopper. I figure I cannot dare other people to eat them if I am not willing, so it looks like I will be trying insect cuisine in a couple of weeks.
    Have you read the book "Last Child in the Woods" by Richard Louv? It delves deeply into the connection that has been lost between children and nature. He coined the phrase "nature deficit disorder". There is a lot of truth in his book, and many of us are beginning to realize the damage that has been done to the past generation and this upcoming generation. Children NEED the outdoors to be healthy and well adjusted.

  5. Wow. Where to start. 1. SUPER interested re: the grasshoppers/locusts that used to be here in huge numbers and are now gone?? I'd NEVER heard about that. SUPER interesting. (like the carrier pigeon, we DO have some talent re: extirpating super abundant species...) 2. Just read that playing in dirt (the bacteria) via kids playing or gardening is great for your immune system, etc, (besides brain, of course). Sort of a "duh" to me, but I wonder about kids of parents who buy all this "anti-bacterial" stuff for their home and life. You NEED to be exposed to these things to develop immunities, and spreading anti-bacterial stuff everywhere just makes the bacterial population more resistant. Cripes. I very happily made many mud pies as a child and am a goofily healthy adult, thank you. I remember being in an urban neighborhood after a storm, seeing the pools of water in the streets and realizing kids there, unless they have suitable back yards, don't have access at their homes to MUD?!?!? Yikes. k. I'll stop.

    Thanks for the interesting discussion and fascinating info!!