How Do Grasshoppers Hear

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.

Do grasshoppers hear through their legs

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.

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 Does a Cricket Hear With Its Legs?

Crickets don’t actually hear with their legs; they hear with tiny ears located on their legs, and they aren’t the only insects with ears on their legs. Grasshoppers, katydids and locusts have them too. Crickets, grasshoppers, katydids and locusts comprise the order Orthoptera. Orthopterans are straight-winged insects with ears located on their front legs just below the knee. Orthopteran ears are some of the smallest in the animal kingdom.

How a Cricket’s Ears Work

The ears of crickets and all orthopterans work the same way human ears work. They are sensitive to sound waves created by vibrations. Once a cricket’s ear has captured the sound waves, it converts and amplifies them, and then analyses their frequencies. A cricket can tell where a sound is coming from by changing the direction it is facing.

Parts of a Cricket’s Ear

While all orthopterans, including crickets, have eardrums, research by entomologist Dr. Fernando Montealegre-Z of the University of Lincoln in Lincolnshire, United Kingdom, shows that bushcricket and perhaps other orthopteran ears have a structure that human ears don’t have. The novel structure, which Dr. Montealegre-Z named the auditory vesicle, analyses sound frequencies and is similar to the human cochlea, but it is uncoiled and filled with fluid. The process works through a tympanal lever system that acts similarly to human ossicles to convert and amplify sound wave vibrations.

How Crickets Communicate

Male crickets have two structures on their wings that allow them to produce sound: a file and a scraper. When the file and scraper are rubbed against each other in a process called stridulation, they make a chirping sound. Only male crickets chirp. They chirp different types of songs to communicate with male and female crickets. Male crickets have a song to attract females to their location, a song for females that are nearby and a post-mating song. They also have a song of aggression to warn other males to stay out of their territory and a song warning males and females when danger is near.

Crickets chirp more frequently in warmer weather, so you can estimate the temperature by counting cricket chirps. Count the number of chirps a cricket makes in 15 seconds and add 37 to that number. For example, if you count 40 chirps in 15 seconds, the temperature will be approximately 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

References (5)

Laura Payne has been freelance writing for several online publications in her free time since 2006. She holds a Master of Arts in linguistics from Wayne State University and a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Oakland University. Payne teaches linguistics classes at both universities on an adjunct basis.

Grasshopper Facts

  1. 1. Classification: Grasshoppers Are Locusts
  2. 2. Lifecycle: Grasshoppers Go through Three Stages of Development
  3. 3. Flight: Grasshoppers Do Actually Fly
  4. 4. Movement: Grasshoppers Jump the Equivalent Length of a Football Field
  5. 5. Behavior: Grasshoppers Are Diurnal Animals
  6. 6. Anatomy: Grasshoppers’ ‘Ears’ Are on Their Abdomens
  7. 7. Sound: Female Male Grasshoppers’ Songs Aren’t Melodic
  8. 8. Sound: Grasshoppers Crepitate or Stridulate to Produce Music
  9. 9. Threats: Swarms of Locusts Can Destroy Food Crops
  10. 10. Migration: Grasshoppers Migrate During Winter

Grasshoppers Are Locusts

Grasshopper External Features (Male and Female)

Grasshoppers Go through Three Stages of Development

A grasshopper’s lifecycle consists of three stages of development: egg, nymph, and adult. Female grasshoppers lay pods containing several eggs in fall, and these then hatch in the spring. The baby grasshopper, known as a nymph, resembles a small adult grasshopper, but without wings. As a nymph grows in size, it will shed its skin about five or six times. It does this by swallowing a large amount of air to split the cuticle so it can break out its exoskeleton. Finally, the nymph develops wings in order to become an adult grasshopper.

Grasshoppers Do Actually Fly

Many people are under the false impression that grasshoppers tend to jump, and not fly. Although grasshoppers have powerful legs that enable them to jump very well, they jump primarily to give them a lift into the air. Grasshoppers do in fact have wings and are actually very strong fliers. The ability to fly is particularly useful when they are trying to escape predators. So a flying grasshopper is a very real thing!

Grasshoppers Jump the Equivalent Length of a Football Field

Grasshoppers Life Cycle

Grasshoppers Are Diurnal Animals

Grasshoppers are diurnal, which means they rest at night and are active during the day. This is largely because grasshoppers need to absorb sunlight in order to raise their body temperature so that they have their required energy. This then enables them to be active during the day. However, they are also known to sometimes feed at night. Midnight snack anyone?

Grasshoppers’ ‘Ears’ Are on Their Abdomens

One of the most intriguing grasshopper facts is that a grasshopper’s ‘ears’ are located on its abdomen. On either side of the first abdominal segment, just beneath the wings, is a simple eardrum. These eardrums, called tympana, consist of membranes that vibrate in response to sound waves. The tympanum enables the grasshopper to hear the noises emitted by other grasshoppers.

Female Male Grasshoppers’ Songs Aren’t Melodic

Jumping Robot Mimic a Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers Crepitate or Stridulate to Produce Music

Most of us are probably familiar with the sound of grasshoppers in the garden. However, one of the most surprising grasshopper facts involves the way in which these insects create these songs. Most male grasshoppers stridulate in order to produce music. This means they rub their hind leg against their forewing. Special pegs located on the inside of their hind legs come into contact with the thickened edge of their forewing. This works in a similar way to a percussion instrument, producing the characteristic grasshopper sound. Other grasshoppers crepitate when making their music. This applies to band-winged grasshoppers, which snap their wings loudly while they are in flight. Now that’s in-flight music with a difference!

Swarms of Locusts Can Destroy Food Crops

A grasshopper will eat approximately half its body weight in plant material every day. That might sound like a lot, but a solitary grasshopper won’t cause that much damage. It’s when they are in swarms that they become a potential threat. One of the more unfortunate grasshopper facts is that the combined effect from a swarm feeding on plants can completely defoliate an area. Farmers’ crops are then destroyed, including important sources of food. Grasshoppers incur damage in grazing lands to the sum of $1.5 billion every year in the US alone.

Grasshoppers Migrate During Winter

Although migration is something that we typically associate with birds, grasshoppers also migrate during the colder months of the year. They tend to migrate in large groups, or swarms. One of the most astonishing grasshopper facts is that a single swarm can consist of millions, or even billions, of grasshoppers! Migration enables grasshoppers to find better sources of food during the winter months when crops are scarcer. Incredibly, grasshoppers can remain in the air for as long as three days without landing.

Grasshoppers Have 5 Eyes

Grasshoppers have certain anatomical features that are common to all insects. A grasshopper’s body consists of three parts: the head, thorax and abdomen. Grasshoppers also have six legs, two antennae and two pairs of wings. These thin antennae are usually the length of the grasshopper’s body, although they can be longer. What you probably didn’t know is that grasshoppers are equipped with five eyes. There is a large eye on either side of a grasshopper’s head, each equipped with thousands of lenses. This enables grasshoppers to see in all directions. A grasshopper also has three smaller eyes, one at the base of each antenna and one between the two antennae. The purpose of these three smaller eyes is as yet unknown by scientists.

Grasshoppers Spit Brown Juice as a Defense Mechanism

One of the most distasteful grasshopper facts is that grasshoppers are known to spit brown juice as a means of defense. It is thought that they do this to repel predators. In the past, grasshoppers were associated with tobacco crops, which led people to say that this brown liquid was actually tobacco juice. However, this is not the case. So, there’s no need to place spittoons in your gardens for these little critters.

Grasshoppers Are Older than Dinosaurs

The very first primitive grasshoppers appear in fossils from the Carboniferous Period, which occurred more than 300 million years ago. Later, during the Triassic Period, which occurred more than 200 million years ago, the ancestors of the modern day grasshoppers evolved. This was at the same time that the first reptiles appeared on Earth. Although most of this information is gleaned from grasshoppers preserved in fossils, some grasshopper nymphs were preserved in amber.

Grasshoppers Consume Toxins

There are a few species of grasshoppers that actually feed on toxic plants. One of the most fascinating grasshopper facts is that, strangely enough, this actually works to their advantage. These grasshoppers contain the toxins in their bodies, which they then utilize as a form of protection: their bodies are brightly colored, which warns predators that these insects are full of toxins, and are unappetizing.

People Worldwide Regularly Eat Grasshoppers

Some Grasshoppers Are Endangered

Although the conservation status of grasshoppers in general is of least concern, there are some species of grasshopper that are in fact considered to be endangered. This is primarily due to a loss of their natural habitat which has occurred as a result of urban development and an increase in agriculture.

Grasshoppers Are Considered Lucky in Japan

As unusual as this may sound, grasshoppers are considered to be a sign of good luck in Japan. In general, the green grasshopper is associated with fresh beginnings, growth, health, rejuvenation, youth, nature, adventure and sentimentality.

Grasshoppers Feature in Many Popular Movies

A Bug’s Life is a well-known and much-loved animated film by Pixar. The villains in this movie are actually grasshoppers! These grasshoppers are depicted as greedy creatures. The main antagonist is a grasshopper named Hopper, who is voiced by Kevin Spacey. Hopper also appeared in the film It’s Tough To Be A Bug!, where his voice was provided by Andrew Stanton.

Grasshopper Facts – Facts about Grasshoppers Summary

Thousands of species of grasshopper live in almost every climate on Earth. These diurnal insects have several distinctive features, including their ability to jump and fly very well. Even though they can be crop pests in swarms, they are seen as a delicacy or good luck charm in different cultures.

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