Can grasshoppers hear sound

Can grasshoppers hear sound

The name Grasshopper describes a number of insects that fall under the scientific “suborder” Caelifera, which is in the order Orthoptera. Within this suborder there are over 11,000 species of grasshopper. That’s a lot of types of grasshoppers!

Like all insects the grasshopper has six legs, a head, thorax, and abdomen. It also has an exoskeleton which is a hard outer surface that protects its softer insides. They have two pairs of wings. The back wings are larger while the front wings are small and fairly hard. Their back legs are large helping them to jump.

They are normally brown in color, but they can vary in color including yellowish brown, reddish brown, and light green. Some are even striped.

These insects live all around the world except where it is too cold like the north and south poles. They have adapted to most every habitat including deserts, forests, and grasslands.

What do they eat?

Grasshoppers eat plants, primarily leaves, grasses, and cereal crops. A lot of grasshoppers can eat a lot of food and can cause serious problems for farmers by eating all of their crops.

How do Grasshoppers make noise?

Male grasshoppers will make a singing sound by rubbing a hind leg against one of their hard forewings. The rough leg causes the wing to vibrate and make a sound, almost like a bow playing a violin.

How are they different from Crickets?

Grasshoppers and Crickets are similar insects, both being of the order Orthoptera, but they are different and actually are in different scientific suborders. The main differences may be hard to see:

  • Grasshoppers have shorter antennae than crickets.
  • Grasshoppers make sounds by rubbing their forelegs against their wings, while crickets rub their wings together.
  • Grasshoppers hear with their abdomen, while crickets listen with their legs.
  • Grasshoppers are diurnal (active during the day). Crickets are nocturnal (active during the night).
  • Grasshoppers only eat plants, while crickets will eat other animals and are omnivorous.

What are locusts?

Locusts are a type of grasshopper. They typically live alone, but are famous for forming giant swarms that can swoop down and destroy massive areas of crops.

Fun Facts about Grasshoppers

  • A lot of people around the world eat grasshoppers. They are a good source of protein.
  • They lay eggs that hatch into nymphs. As the nymphs grow into full size adults they will molt many times.
  • The villains in the movie A Bug’s Life by Pixar are grasshoppers.
  • They have many predators including birds, sp >


Grasshoppers have their rear legs adapted for jumping. These legs have large muscles in them to propel the grasshopper forwards. Grasshoppers have antennae that are almost always shorter than the body. This lets you tell them apart from their cousins the Crickets and Katydids. Grasshoppers are usually green or brown. This helps to camouflage them among the habitat where they live. Most adult grasshoppers have two pairs of wings. Some grasshoppers have their wings in bright colors. When they jump they show their wings and the sudden bright flash of color may distract predators. They are known for the sound they make by rubbing their wings with their rear legs. Grasshoppers have no ears as we do, rather they hear with an organ called the tympanum in the first segment of their abdomen.

Grasshoppers live in all climates except the very cold ones. They live in grassy areas, forests or anywhere there are leaves that they can feed on.

Grasshoppers are herbivores and eat only plants. Some grasshoppers eat only a certain type of plant. They eat plants like leaves and grasses.

When grasshoppers are picked up they release a brown liquid. Some scientists think that this is done to protect it from other small insects like ants. Grasshoppers are hunted by beetles, mantises, birds, mice, cats, dogs, snakes, and spiders. Grasshoppers try to hide or jump and fly away when they are near their enemies.

After they leave their eggs, newborn grasshoppers look much like adults. They simply grow bigger — if some other creature doesn’t kill it first as food, or it doesn’t meet an end by being such an unnatural event as being run over by a car. Few young grasshoppers reach adulthood.

Grasshoppers can destroy entire crops of cotton, corn and other grains. This makes them not well liked by the farmers who are planting these crops. Some grasshoppers can form swarms of many billions. These are the locusts, and a swarm of locusts can devastate

Some people eat them as food; they are very nutritious.

10 Fascinating Facts About Grasshoppers

Find Out More About These Amazing Insects That Predate Dinosaurs

Jim Simmen / Getty Images

Animals & Nature

Famed fable writer Aesop portrayed the grasshopper as a ne’er do well who fiddled away his summer days without a thought to the future but in the real world, the destruction wreaked by grasshoppers on farming and ranching is far from a harmless parable. Although grasshoppers are extremely common, there’s more to these summertime critters than meets the eye. Here’s a list of 10 fascinating grasshopper-related facts.

1. Grasshoppers and Locusts Are One and the Same

When we think of grasshoppers, most people recall pleasant childhood memories of trying to catch the jumping insects in meadows or backyards. Say the word locusts, however, and it brings to mind images of historic plagues raining down destruction on crops and devouring every plant in sight.

Truth be told, grasshoppers and locusts are members of the same insect order. While certain species are commonly referred to grasshoppers and others as locusts, both creatures are short-horned members of the order Orthoptera. Jumping herbivores with shorter antennae are grouped into the suborder Caelifera, while their longer-horned brethren (crickets and katydids) belong to the suborder Ensifera.

2. Grasshoppers Have Ears on Their Bellies

The grasshopper’s auditory organs are found not on the head, but rather, on the abdomen. A pair of membranes that vibrate in response to sound waves are located one on either side of the first abdominal segment, tucked under the wings. This simple eardrum, called a tympanal organ, allows the grasshopper to hear the songs of its fellow grasshoppers.

3. Although Grasshoppers Can Hear, They Can’t Distinguish Pitch Very Well

As with most insects, the grasshopper’s auditory organs are simple structures. They can detect differences in intensity and rhythm, but not pitch. The male grasshopper’s song isn’t particularly melodic which is a good thing since females don’t care whether or not a fellow can carry a tune. Each species of grasshopper produces a characteristic rhythm that distinguishes its song from others and enables courting males and females of a given species to find one another.

4. Grasshoppers Make Music by Stridulating or Crepitating

If you’re not familiar with those terms, don’t worry. It’s not all that complicated. Most grasshoppers stridulate, which simply means that they rub their hind legs against their forewings to produce their trademark tunes. Special pegs on the inside of the hind leg act like a percussion instrument of sorts when they come in contact with the thickened edge of the wing. The band-winged grasshoppers crepitate or loudly snap their wings as they fly.

5. Grasshoppers Catapult Themselves Into the Air

If you’ve ever tried to catch a grasshopper, you know how far they can jump to flee danger. If humans could jump the way grasshoppers do, we would be able to easily leap the length of a football field. How do these insects jump so far? It’s all in those big, back legs. A grasshopper’s hind legs function like miniature catapults. In preparation for a jump, the grasshopper contracts its large flexor muscles slowly, bending its hind legs at the knee joint. A special piece of cuticle within the knee acts as a spring, storing up all the potential energy. The grasshopper then relaxes its leg muscles, allowing the spring to release its energy and fling the insect into the air.

6. Grasshoppers Can Fly

Because grasshoppers have such powerful jumping legs, people sometimes don’t realize that they also have wings. Grasshoppers use their jumping ability to give them a boost into the air but most are pretty strong fliers and make good use of their wings to escape predators.

7. Grasshoppers Cause Billions of Dollars in Damage to Food Crops Annually

One lone grasshopper can’t do too much harm, although it eats about half its body weight in plants each day—but when locusts swarm, their combined feeding habits can completely defoliate a landscape, leaving farmers without crops and people without food. In the U.S. alone, grasshoppers cause about $1.5 billion in damage to grazing lands each year. In 1954, a swarm of Desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria) consumed over 75 square miles of wild and cultivated plants in Kenya.

8. Grasshoppers Are an Important Source of Protein

People have been consuming locusts and grasshoppers for centuries. According to the Bible, John the Baptist ate locusts and honey in the wilderness. Locusts and grasshoppers are a regular dietary component in local diets in many areas of Africa, Asia, and the Americas—and since they’re packed with protein, they’re an important nutritional staple as well.

9. Grasshoppers Existed Long Before Dinosaurs

Modern-day grasshoppers descend from ancient ancestors that lived long before dinosaurs roamed the Earth. The fossil record shows that primitive grasshoppers first appeared during the Carboniferous period, more than 300 million years ago. Most ancient grasshoppers are preserved as fossils, although grasshopper nymphs (the second stage in the grasshopper lifestyle after the initial egg phase) are occasionally found in amber.

10. Grasshoppers May “Spit” Liquid to Defend Themselves

If you’ve ever handled grasshoppers, you’ve probably had a few of them spit brown liquid on you in protest. Scientists believe this behavior is a means of self-defense, and the liquid helps the insects repel predators. Some people say grasshoppers spit “tobacco juice,” probably because historically, grasshoppers have been associated with tobacco crops. Rest assured, however, the grasshoppers aren’t using you as a spittoon.

joonas siren

can you hear the grasshoppers sing?
sound installation/multi-channel audiowork
Galleria Harmaa, Turku 21.4.-22.5.2016, Contemporary Art Museum Kiasma, Kiasma theater, Helsinki 20.2.2016, Free Art Space 12.4.2015 Helsinki & Avatar co-op, Quebec City, Canada, 5.12.-20.12.2013

I remember one childhood summer, when I first realized that my father couldn’t hear the grasshoppers singing. I felt confused; why are there sounds that can not be heard by everybody?

This memory resurfaced a few years ago, when I was thinking more about my personal relation to sound.

To my knowledge the sound of singing grasshoppers is the only specific aural phenomenon that can be lost from hearing. Grasshoppers and crickets sing in a very high pitch between 12 – 20 kHz and these frequencies can be lost because of normal aging.

I find it poetic that there are sounds that are connected to the process of aging. The disappearance is somehow a reminder of our limited, transient existence.

“Can You Hear the Grasshoppers Sing?” is a generative 16-channel sound installation, where different field recordings of grasshopper sounds are randomly triggered to different speakers. The computer program also transposes these sounds; pitchshifting it up behind the 20 kHz human hearing threshold and down to 5 kHz enabling everybody to hear them.

The project was first exhibited as an end of residency exhibition in Avatar Centre Québec City, Canada in December 2013. Second edition was at Free Art Space in Helsinki April 2015. Third edition at Jussi Koitela’s Skills of Economy Session- Beginning from the End -event at Kiasma theater, Conteporary Art Museum Kiasma, February 2016. The most recent fourth edition was exhibited at Galleria Harmaa, Turku as a solo exhibition, April 2016.

Ever Wondered How Insects Hear the World Around Them?

The 4 Types of Auditory Organs in Insects

Animals & Nature

Sound is created by vibrations carried through the air. By definition, an animal’s capacity to “hear” means that it has one or more organs that perceived and interpreted those air vibrations. Most insects have one or more sensory organs that are sensitive to vibrations transmitting through the air. Not only do insects hear, but they may actually be more sensitive than other animals to sound vibrations. Insect sense and interpret sounds in order to communicate with other insects and to navigate their environments. Some insects even listen for the sounds of predators in order to avoid being eaten by them.

There are four different types of auditory organs that insects may possess.

Tympanal Organs

Many hearing insects have a pair of tympanal organs that vibrate when they catch sound waves in the air. As the name hints, these organs catch the sound and vibrate in much the way that a tympani, the large drum used in the percussion section of an orchestra, does it when its drum head is struck by a percussion mallet. Like the tympani, the tympanal organ consists of a membrane tightly stretched on a frame over an air-filled cavity. When the percussionist hammers on the membrane of the tympani, it vibrates and produces a sound; an insect’s tympanal organ vibrates in much the same way as it catches sound waves in the air. This mechanism is exactly the same as found in the eardrum organ of humans and other animal species. Many insects have the ability to hear in a manner quite similar to the way we do it.

An insect also has a special receptor called the chordotonal organ, which senses the vibration of the tympanal organ and translates the sound into a nerve impulse. Insects that use tympanal organs to hear include grasshoppers and crickets, cicadas, and some butterflies and moths.

Johnston’s Organ

For some insects, a group of sensory cells on the antennae form a receptor called the Johnston’s organ, which collects auditory information. These group of sensory cells is found on the pedicel, which is the second segment from the base of the antennae, and it detects vibration of the segment(s) above. Mosquitoes and fruit flies are examples of insects that hear by using the Johnston’s organ. In fruit flies, the organ is used to sense the wing-beat frequencies of mates, and in hawk moths, it is thought to assist with stable flight. In honeybees, Johnston’s organ assists in the location of food sources.

Johnston’s organ is a type of receptor found only no invertebrates other than insects. It is named for the physician Christopher Johnston (1822-1891), a professor of surgery at the University of Maryland who discovered the organ.

The larvae of Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths) and Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, etc.) use small stiff hairs, called setae, to sense sound vibrations. Caterpillars often respond to vibrations in the setae by exhibiting defensive behaviors. Some will stop moving completely, while others may contract their muscles and rear up in a fighting posture. Setae hairs are found on many species, but not all of them use the organs to sense sound vibrations.

Labral Pilifer

A structure in the mouths of certain hawkmoths enables them to hear ultrasonic sounds, such as those produced by echolocating bats. The labral pilifer, a tiny hair-like organ, is believed to sense vibrations at specific frequencies. Scientists have noted a distinctive movement of the insect’s tongue when they subject captive hawkmoths to sounds at these particular frequencies. In flight, the hawkmoths can avoid a pursuing bat by using the labral pilifer to detect their echolocation signals.

How Do Grasshoppers Hear?

grasshopper image by Ben Twist from

Have you ever wondered if insects can hear? Many people believe that, because insects have no obvious ears, they must be deaf–but that’s not the case. In nature, a keen sense of hearing is a vital survival mechanism, and insect hearing is some of the most sophisticated in the animal kingdom. The grasshopper serves as an excellent example of the ways in which many insects are able to receive and process sound waves.

Myths and Misconceptions

There is a popular misconception that grasshoppers have ears on their legs. In fact, grasshoppers have no external ears, but instead hear by means of an organ called a tympanum. However, the tympanum is indeed located near the base of the grasshopper’s hind legs, which likely accounts for this belief. In order to better understand grasshopper hearing, an examination of their anatomy is beneficial.

Grasshopper Anatomy

The grasshopper is the common name for a member of the Orthoptera order, which also includes crickets and katydids. They average between 1 and 3 inches in length, but can grow as large as 5 inches. Their bodies are segmented into three parts: the head, thorax and abdomen. They have four short legs and two large, muscular legs for jumping. Adults also have two pairs of wings, and short antennae. The hearing organ, which is a large membrane called a tympanum, is located on either side of the first segment of the abdomen, near the base of the hind legs.

Insect Hearing

According to Friederike Gilbert and Norbert Elsner in the Journal of Experimental Biology, hearing in grasshoppers has evolved for the purpose of identifying predators, prey and potential mates. The tympanum is the most common means of hearing in insects, although others hear by echo location or the vibration of tiny hairs on the skin. Situated between the tympanum are air-filled tracheal sacs which act as an internal sound pathway.

Grasshopper Hearing

Like most animals, a grasshopper hears by receiving and processing sound waves. When the sound waves are received by the grasshopper, they act both on the external tympanum and the internal chambers. The interaction between these two pressures and the tympanal membrane results in the grasshopper’s ability to hear. This mechanism is so sophisticated, that a grasshopper’s ability to identify the direction of a sound source rivals that of a human.


Aside from locating and avoiding predators, acoustic communication in grasshoppers is mainly used for the attraction of mates. The male initiates a call, often a whirring or snapping noise, which is heard by the female. The male then listens for her response, and due to his sensitive hearing, is able to pinpoint her location with relative ease. Thus, a grasshopper’s ability to hear helps ensure the survival of the species.

Why the summer sound of noisy crickets is growing fainter

Lecturer in Animal Biology, University of Leeds

Disclosure statement

Christopher Hassall does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

University of Leeds provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.

The Conversation UK receives funding from these organisations

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under Creative Commons licence.

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To make this familiar summer sound, the male cricket holds his nerve and “stridulates” – rubbing his back legs together in order to entice a female. He knows this makes him vulnerable. What a female cricket can find, so too can the predators and parasites that wish to consume or infect him.

Hiding in the vegetation, he is also surrounded by a silent audience of other males. Those “sneakier” males do not sing themselves, but will try to intercept females as they approach a singing rival. It is this dramatic scene that plays out as we hear the crickets and grasshoppers calling on warm evenings. Or at least it did.

Because the crooning of the crickets has quietened in recent years and may be becoming a thing of the past. There is strong evidence that large numbers of crickets and grasshoppers (known, along with mantises, earwigs and cockroaches as the “Orthoptera”) are declining across Europe. A 2017 review of European species showed that over 30% of the 1,000 European species were in decline while only 3% were increasing. As with many insects, we simply don’t know what is happening to most of the rest.

The problem is that recent work has suggested that all insect species, including Orthoptera, are declining – the so-called “insect Armageddon”.

A 2017 study found that the abundance of flying insects has plunged by 75% over the past 25 years. One member of the study team, Professor Dave Goulson of Sussex University, said at the time: “Insects make up about two-thirds of all life on Earth [but] there has been some kind of horrific decline.”

He added: “We appear to be making vast tracts of land inhospitable to most forms of life, and are currently on course for ecological Armageddon. If we lose the insects then everything is going to collapse.”

Among the species threatened is the delightfully-named “wart-biter” – so-called because of an 18th century Swedish practice of using the strong jaws of the cricket to remove warts from the skin. The wart-biter is now the focus of conservation efforts, including reintroductions into sites from which it has been lost. But this kind of intensive conservation simply is not possible for all species.

The reasons behind the decline in crickets and grasshoppers are the standard fare. The loss, damage and fragmentation of habitats, largely as a result of increasing farming and urbanisation, as well as increasing rates of fires such as those that the world is experiencing in 2018. Crickets are often held to be indicators of good quality natural habitat, so their decline mirrors the ongoing decline in the wider natural world.

Noisy nature

Anybody who has spent any time in the world’s most natural places will know that natural “soundscapes” are neither peaceful nor serene – they are as noisy and busy as any urban high street. The crickets are just one part of the larger soundscape that provides the musical accompaniment to nature’s play. Depending on where you live, you might hear bird song, flowing water, the buzzing of bees, the roar of tigers, the rustle of leaves, or the calling of frogs.

In 1962, Rachel Carson famously wrote about the “Silent Spring” caused by the effects of agricultural pesticides on songbirds. Now we are beginning to appreciate that other components of the natural world are falling silent. This is why some scientists are turning to “soundscape ecology” or “ecoacoustics” as a tool to understand the changing natural world.

This new scientific field gives conservation biologists another tool – an ecological stethoscope with which to listen for subtle changes in the environment. But in order to protect the soundscape we need to protect the landscape. At a time when land is at a premium for food production, housing and industry, we need to make space for nature.

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