As I walked through a field of tall grass, I saw grasshoppers jumping everywhere, and I was amazed at the distance they jumped. Later that night, I looked through several books and found that grasshoppers can jump 20 times the length of their bodies; while 3 feet is typical for a jump, some grasshoppers have been known to jump 5 feet.
Grasshoppers belong to the large order of insects called Orthoptera, which includes the katydids, cockroaches and crickets. Orthoptera, is a Latin word that means straight-winged.
The order has more than 1,000 species in North America and more than 23,000 species worldwide. The members of this order undergo an incomplete metamorphosis, which means that the tiny insects that hatch from the eggs already are similar in form to their parents and gradually will take on the appearance of the adults as they increase in size and finally develop wings.
Grasshoppers are perhaps the best known members of the order. The insects are found in fields, meadows, gardens, along roadsides, etc. Of course, grasshoppers are known for jumping, but they also can fly; however, their flight is short.
Grasshoppers have six legs and four wings, with hind legs nearly as long as their entire bodies.
Although all grasshoppers eat plants, some species prefer certain kinds. A group of grasshoppers, called a swarm, can cause a lot of damage to crops. Some of their favorite foods include corn, oats, rye, cotton, wheat, alfalfa and clover.
Locusts are biologically identical to grasshoppers but differ in how they tend to swarm in large groups. In locust form, grasshoppers can consume millions of tons of plant matter. One particular locust swarm in 1988 contained more than 150 billion locusts.
In 1848, a Mormon settlement was attacked by a plague of grasshoppers; however, a flock of gulls destroyed the grasshoppers. A monument later was built to honor the gulls.
Grasshoppers destroy $80 million worth of crops in the U.S. every year. Flies are the major nonhuman predator to grasshoppers because they eat the grasshopper's eggs.
One day when I stopped to see a friend he offered me a chocolate-covered grasshopper, which I politely turned down.
I have read that grasshoppers are very nutritious, with a large grasshopper having 20 grams of protein. During a survival course, our men and women in the military are taught how to eat grasshoppers and other insects.
If you are thinking about catching some grasshoppers for a snack, be sure to clean and cook the insects, for if you don't, a tapeworm is a possibility.
A grasshopper has five eyes, three of which are known as simple eyes and two compound eyes.
Trying to catch a grasshopper by hand is no easy task because these eyes allow the grasshopper to see not only long distances, but also forward, backward and sideways.
Instead of having a nose, a grasshopper has holes along the sides of its body that it uses for breathing.
Nor does a grasshopper have ears. Instead, it hears through the use of an organ called a tympanum, which is found on the abdomen, where the legs connect to the body.
Grasshoppers make music with their legs just as their cricket cousins do. This is called stridulation. The sounds can be made by rubbing the legs against the abdomen or by rubbing the legs and wings together.
Although grasshoppers are here during the spring and summer months, they are most noticeable during the middle of the day in the fall. Grasshoppers are perceptive and can sense your presence while several feet away.
Some grasshoppers spit a brown bitter liquid as a defensive behavior in response to being handled. While growing up, we called this tobacco juice.
Bower retired after 34 years as a wildlife conservation officer for the state Game Commission. He has published several books about his experiences. Questions and comments may be sent to him at 153 Redington Ave., Troy PA 16947.