NC State Extension Publications

Description and Biology

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Grasshoppers usually have stiff, leathery wings and hind legs adapted for jumping. Most of our species are 3/4 to 11/2 inches long. The differential grasshopper, Melanoplus differentialis, is yellowish to olive green with black markings and black chevrons on the hind femur (thickest segment). Redlegged grasshoppers, Melanoplus femurrubrum, are reddish-brown with yellow undersides and red hind legs. The twostriped grasshopper, Melanoplus bivittatus, is greenish yellow with black and brown markings and two pale stripes from the head to the tip of the wings. Grasshoppers jump and fly readily, except for the eastern lubber grasshopper, Romalea microptera. This latter grasshopper is remarkable for its size (almost 3 inches) and bulk. Handle eastern lubber grasshoppers with care as they can expel a very irritating fluid up to 6 inches! After mating, females lay their eggs by inserting the abdomen into the soil and laying their eggs in a slender mass 25 to 150 eggs surrounded by a glue-like secretion. The eggs resemble grains of rice surrounded by a pod. When first hatched, nymphs are white but soon darken with markings that resemble those of their parents. Nymphs are wingless but develop wing "buds" as they grow and molt. Young nymphs may feed in clusters before dispersing. In 35 to 50 days, nymphs finally molt into the adult stage. After feeding for about two weeks, females are ready to lay eggs. Our grasshopper have one or two generations per year. Dry weather tends to allow grasshopper populations to increase, but populations of blister beetles may build up the next year because the larvae of blister beetles feed in the egg masses of grasshoppers. Parasitic flies and nematodes also infect grasshoppers.

Grasshoppers are closely related to the locusts of the Old World that sometimes swarm in astronomical numbers across vast areas wreaking havoc on vegetation. In the western United States back in the 1800's, farmers endured plagues of grasshoppers of Biblical proportions. A former member of the Department, Dr. Charles Brett, studied the question of why our grasshoppers no longer swarm. His conclusion was that alfalfa has some sort of growth regulator effect on developing grasshoppers. As more and more alfalfa was planted across the western US, our grasshoppers stopped swarming.

differential grasshopper

The differential grasshopper is typical of many grasshoppers in North Carolina.

Host Plants

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Grasshoppers feed on a wide variety of field crops, vegetables, and ornamental plants ranging from cactus to Crocosmia.

A very small grasshopper nymph

A very small grasshopper nymph feeding on a cactus flower.

A grasshopper nymph feeding on a cactus stem.

A grasshopper nymph feeding on a cactus stem.

Very young grasshoppers often feed in clusters.

Very young grasshoppers often feed in clusters.

Residential Recommendations

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Sevin and other insecticides are labeled for grasshopper control. Fortunately, grasshoppers are not resistant to pesticides, although once the population builds up to the point where pesticides application is needed, it may take several applications at two or three day intervals because of migration in from nearby areas. Most insecticides labeled for residential landscape use will provide more than adequate control.

References

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For assistance with a specific problem, contact your local Cooperative Extension Center.

This Factsheet has not been peer reviewed.

Author

Professor Emeritus
Entomology and Plant Pathology

Publication date: Jan. 22, 2018
Revised: Sept. 20, 2019

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