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/ Bug of the Week / Pine Tree Spur-throated Grasshopper (Family Acrididae)

Pine Tree Spur-throated Grasshopper (Family Acr > April 14, 2015

Pine Tree Spur-throated Grasshopper

Last fall, as the BugLady headed into a cedar-tamarack swamp, she spied a lovely grasshopper that was sharing the boardwalk with her. She expects tree crickets in wetlands, and lots of katydids enjoy wetland edges, but wetland grasshoppers? The BugLady most assuredly has not developed an “eye” for Orthopterans (the grasshoppers, crickets, tree crickets, katydids, etc.), other than usually, frequently, sometimes being able to figure out what family she’s looking at, so she was stymied—the possible candidates she came up with all lived in sandy areas. What’s a BugLady to do? Ask an expert; turns out that this is a Pine Tree Spur-throat Grasshopper (Melanoplus punctulatus). Thanks, Professor B.

Along with some very familiar grasshoppers like the Red-legged, the Two-lined, and the Differential, the PTSTG is a member of the Short-horned Grasshopper family Acrididae and the genus Melanoplus. Short-horned grasshoppers have short “horns” (antennae), and legs designed for jumping; most have well-developed wings as well, and they have hearing organs on the sides of their first abdominal segment. They are variously called grasshoppers or locusts, terms that are often used interchangeably (Acrididae comes from the Greek “akris” meaning “locust”). There are 620 species in the family in North America (out of 8,000 worldwide) including 239 North American Melanoplus. They eat mostly plant material (with maybe a little scavenging on dead/almost-dead protein on the side), and some are major agricultural pests.

Melanoplus is in the Spur-throated grasshopper subfamily (Melanoplinae), so named because they have a protuberance/spur on the underneath side of the first thoracic segment at the base of the front pair of legs. In North America, Melanoplus grasshoppers are found in a wide variety of habitats from coast to coast, feeding on grasses and other vegetation. Identification of some is a slam-dunk, but others require both external and internal examination of male reproductive structures. The systematics of the genus is tumultuous—expect lumping and splitting and dissension.

The Pine Tree Spur-throated Grassshopper enjoys a number of other equally descriptive common names like the Grizzly Locust, and the Marbled, Grizzled, and Griseous (Medieval Latin for white/gray mottled with black/gray/brown) Grasshopper. There’s quite a lot of variation in color, from gray to toasty brown to green; females, which are larger than males, may grow close to two inches long. Bugguide considers PTSTGs “One of the few members of its genus that is easy to recognize.” For a glimpse at the family album, here’s a male, (they’re described as having distinctive club-like/boot-shaped cerci) a female, a female ovipositing on a boardwalk, and a wee nymph.

The PTSTG may be found in decidedly un-grasshopper-like habitat over a wide swath of central and eastern North America, but it is considered very uncommon. In 1897, Samuel Scudder wrote in his Revision of the orthopteran group Melanopli (Acridiidae): with special reference to North American forms, “Brunner reports it from oak groves and Smith on cranberry bogs, but Bentenmueller has found that it lives on pine trees. Blatchly found it in the depths of a tamarack swamp, and says it is not an active insect, ‘usually, after one or two short leaps, squatting close to the earth and seemingly depending upon the close similarity of its hues to the grayish lichens around it to escape detection.’ Others have since found it in coniferous trees, and these are, apparently, its proper station.”

According to, “Traditionally this species is considered rare, but it is one of the most frequently photographed grasshoppers, and has as wide distribution. Perhaps this is because of habitat preferences; entomologists looking for grasshoppers rarely see it because it lives mostly in the trees, but people with cameras often find them in such places (or on the sides of their houses or wood porches and stoops).” Its rank in Wisconsin is “S2?” (S2 means “Imperiled in Wisconsin because of rarity”) and its status is SC/N (Special Concern; no laws regulating use, possession, or harvesting). For more about Wisconsin’s rare, endangered and threatened species, check the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory (NHI) website.

A male Melanoplus’ approach to courtship is more physical than auditory. He doesn’t stridulate (make noise by friction), he simply grabs a female and introduces himself by shaking his legs in a characteristic way. If she is from a different species, she won’t recognize his “language” and will rebuff him. Females oviposit into holes that they drill with their abdomens; the female PTSTG deposits her eggs in soft wood, stumps, and crevices in both deciduous and coniferous trees. The PTSTG overwinters in the egg stage; nymphs appear in late spring and mature by early summer. The grasshopper lives in trees and feeds there on needles and deciduous leaves.

The insects (and other living things) that the BugLady researches have common names (usually), and a scientific name made up of a genus name (very roughly equivalent to human surnames—it shows a relationship to similar organisms) and a species name that in combination with the genus name, distinguishes this species from all others. In scientific literature, the genus and species names are followed by an “author name” or initial that typically refers to the person who described the species, sometimes centuries ago (though the ground rules can be way more complicated than that). So, the PTSTG’s complete designation is Melanoplus punctulatus (Scudder 1863). Here’s the first of an occasional series of sidebars titled “Who Were Those Guys??”—brief biographies of the scientists on whose shoulders we stand.

Samuel Hubbard Scudder

Samuel Hubbard Scudder (1837–1911) was an American entomologist and paleontologist who published almost 800 books and papers between 1858 and 1902. Topics ranged from insects (biology, anatomy, embryology, songs, behavior, distribution, and classification) to paleobiogeography, geology, geography, evolution, molluscs, and more. A complete list of his papers can be found at the end of an reverent tribute written by Alfred G. Mayor and published by the National Academy of Sciences in 1919.

The two-volume Nomenclator zoologicus (1882-84) catalogued all the family and genus names being used in zoology at the time; in 1888-89 he published the three volume Butterflies of the Eastern United States and Canada with special reference to New England (he is much-cited on the marvelous butterflies of Massachusetts site). He named 1,144 species of fossil insects, gave common names to 77 species of butterflies, and described 630 species of Orthopterans. He was also an expert on the cockroaches and mantises.

According to Mayor, “almost our whole accurate knowledge of American orthoptera and of American fossil insects is due to Scudder’s painstaking examination and description of the most minute details of structure exhibited by these forms.” About the butterfly books, Mayor says that Scudder “is perhaps the only man of science in America who could write a deeply technical work upon Lepidoptera and at the same time without incongruity crowd the volumes with quotations from poetry and with popular excursuses upon all manner of fascinating subjects related to New England and its butterflies.”

The BugLady first heard of Scudder years ago in a lovely collection of biographical essays by John McCullough called Brave Companions. The entry about Scudder referenced an essay called The Student, the Fish, and Agassiz that he wrote in 1874 about his initial experience with Professor Louis Agassiz at Harvard University.

Scudder was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease 1897. Mayor tells a revealing story about Scudder’s mental determination during his long decline, “That remarkable interest in system and fascination for detail that had characterized his active life still survived in these passive years, for at his request Miss Blatchford read to him every word of the original folio edition of Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary, including the preface and the definition of each and every word; almost the entire time between January 12 and October 24, 1905, being consumed in this manner.”

With Grasshoppers Around, Learn 5 Facts One Should Know About Them

Grasshoppers are thriving in Wisconsin right now, meaning there are plenty of late-summer opportunities to catch glimpses of the many species native to the state.

Courtesy of Phil Pellitteri, entomologist, distinguished faculty associate emeritus and recently retired head of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Insect Diagnostic Lab, here are some facts you should know about these insects currently in abundance:

1. The lack of rain is a boon for them.

Pellitteri isn’t at all surprised that grasshoppers are faring so well right now — grasshoppers (also crickets) prefer dry weather, and Wisconsin has not had a lot of precipitation late in the summer this year.

Pellitteri added that it generally takes two or three years of drought conditions or close to it to get a really significant build-up of grasshoppers.

2. Wet summers can actually harm them.

One of the greatest risks to grasshoppers during their life cycle is wet conditions during the hatching p. Pellitteri said that the timing of the hatch depends on when the soil warms up sufficiently, but that it’s generally in early June.

If there is a significant amount of rain at that time, “they don’t do well,” he said. “The young nymphs flood, and get sick, and all kinds of things.”

3. Wisconsin winters don’t faze them.

Many people may assume that harsh winters like the one we had last season devastate insect populations — but in fact, for grasshoppers, that’s not the case.

Grasshoppers, which produce one new generation per year, lay their eggs — which Pellitteri described as looking like a cluster of rice grains—in the fall. Those eggs hatch in the summer, and according to Pellitteri, they’re largely winter-proof.

“The winter extremes don’t affect them much,” he said. “They’re down in the soil and protected.”

There are also some adult species of grasshopper capable of overwintering, meaning that it’s possible to see adults in the springtime.

4. In large numbers, they can be garden pests.

Adult grasshoppers can fly, which Pellitteri said can make them into a pest quickly. But while they can do damage in the garden and on agricultural land, he said that they need to be in very high numbers to do so.

“They need to really gang up on a plant,” he said. “We’re talking 15 or 20 on a corn stalk before you see significant problems.”

Pellitteri said that to judge if it is going to be a problem, looking at the population density will help: “Five to 10 per square yard is getting pretty serious,” he said.

5. They are prone to eat anything.

Pellitteri said that grasshoppers are considered general feeders, meaning that they will eat what’s available. Oddly, he said that they have been known to chew through plastic screens and even eat the paint off houses.

“Nutritionally, it doesn’t make any sense,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean that they don’t do it.”

Where does grasshopper come from wisconsin

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A photograph shows a man holding a 3-foot grasshopper.

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For several years, a black-and-white photograph purporting to show a man holding an enormous grasshopper has been widely shared on social media:

The most obvious sign that the image is doctored, of course, is that grasshoppers simply don’t get that big. The average grasshopper is only an inch or two long

Moreover, if the image were real, the grasshopper would cast a shadow on the man’s pants and on the ground, in the same direction as the man’s shadow.

An uncropped version of the photograph shows that it was copyrighted in 1937 to Coles Studio:

Grasshopper shot near Miles City Mont. C. 1937 Coles Studio Glassgow Mont

The use of the copyright and the fact that other variations of this image were attached to various locales (such as North Dakota), indicate that this image may have originally circulated as a postcard. In fact, giant grasshoppers were a recurring theme in exaggerated postcards from the early 20th century. Here’s an image created by photographer Frank D. “Pop” Conard featuring a similarly large (and unreal) grasshoppers:

When a swarm of grasshoppers descended on Garden City in 1935, Frank D. “Pop” Conard had a vision. The photographer made a montage of giant insects with humans and sold the postcards like “hotcakes.” “The idea,” Conard said, “came to me after a flight of grasshoppers swarmed into Garden City attracted by the lights, and it was impossible to fill an automobile gasoline tank at filling stations that night. I went home to sleep, but awoke at 3:00 a.m. and all I could think about was grasshoppers. By morning I had the idea of having fun with the grasshoppers, and took my pictures and superimposed the hoppers with humans. I didn’t do it for adverse impressions of Kansas, but as an exaggerated joke.” A master retoucher, Conard continued to print “hopper whoppers” until his retirement in 1963. Grasshoppers were enlarged to battle a man, fit on the bed of a pickup, and hold up a train.

The picture postcard presented the possibility to inventive photographers to extend the traditional tall-tale to the photographic plate, and what is more, to devise entirely new forms that were possible only through photography. It brought into being visual effects that tall-tale tellers through the centuries had seen only in their fertile imaginations.

“They say pictures don’t lie,” explained Conard, “but from the sale of these postcards-the fastest selling novelty cards on the market it seems that Kansas people like a little funny, untruth.”

Although Conard was the giant grasshopper guru of the 1930s, he did not create the postcard featuring the hunter holding a three-foot grasshopper. However, we found two other examples of the work of Coles Studio:

Instagram user Blake Nass shared an interesting, although unverified, story about the photograph in 2015. Nass claimed to be the grandson of the man in the photograph, Joseph Nass, and said that the picture was taken after an unsuccessful hunt:

I’d be happy to pass along the story. @benshap is pretty close. Grandpa Nass was out shooting prairie dogs/gophers near miles city. Along came a truck loaded with a photographer traveling cross country and asked Mr. Nass to “hold out his left hand like so and his right hand and rifle just the same”. A few exposures were taken and the photographer (presuming to be associated with Cole studio) said “thanks, appreciate your time!” and kept driving along. Grandpa Nass was a little unsure of what had taken place but carried on. A few months later the “doctored” photo appeared in some tabloid literature. Postcards primarily that poked fun at country types. At one time the media gave the photo a run with the story involving an Australian being the one posing with a trophy “hopper”. An original photo held within the family coming soon!!

At least part of Nass’s story is verifiable. In September 1937, the Tomah Moniror-Herald published a story claiming that giant grasshoppers were terrorizing a local farmer’s land. Leland Gregory recounted the story of the hoax in his book Stupid History : Tales of Stupidity, Strangeness, and Mythconceptions Through the Ages:

On September 9, 1937, the front-page headliner of the Tomah Monitor Herald warned people: “Giant Grasshoppers Invade Butts Orchard East of City.” The article explained that grasshoppers had eaten special plant food used on an apple orchard belonging to farmer A.L. Butts and had quickly grown to three feet in length. Accompanying the article were photographs of shotgun-toting hunters tracking down the mutant insects as well as a picture of Farmer Butts holding up a dead grasshopper like a prize fish. The citizens of the town became jumpy and nearly hysterical at the thought of enormous grasshoppers bouncing through the town, destroying their crops, frightening the livestock, and generally wreaking havoc. The article, of course, was a hoax, and the Monitor-Hearld publisher, B.J. Fuller, along with Farmer Butts (yes, there was an actual Farmer Butts,) confessed to making the townsfolk the butt of their elaborate, and pesky, joke.

The image showing a man holding a three-foot long grasshopper is not real. This picture was created as a prank in the 1930s and continues to fool viewers today.

Milwaukee Institute

Grasshoppers can’t jump s >Grasshopper meetings help entrepreneurs and innovators move forward. Presenters with expertise in specific technologies, venture capital and other areas share best practices and spur thought-provoking discussion. Networking abounds.

2019 Meeting Dates

Jan. 24; Feb. 21; March 21; April 18; May 23; June 20; July 18; Sept. 19; Oct. 24; Nov. 21. Meetings are held on Thursdays from 4:30pm to 6:30pm in Room 121 of the Technology Innovation Center, 10437 W. Innovation Drive, Wauwatosa.

Information about our May 23 talk coming soon.

There is no cost to attend, but a link where you can RSVP is coming soon.

Previous discussions:

April 18: Gordon Nameni, founder of Milwaukee-area management consulting firm August Brown who has a Ph.D in materials science, led a discussion about new product development and using the Tech Translation Framework to drive growth through factors such as communication, flexibility, and a market-driven approach. The framework helps identify technical gaps before entering a market, unearth new market opportunities through several valuable exercises and monitor the development and commercialization process of the new or re-imagined products.

March 21: Jerry Jendusa founded EMTEQ in 1996 with an SBA loan. Starting in the basement of his home, Jerry grew the maker of aircraft interior and exterior lighting systems and management and power systems into an award-winning, global player with more than $100 million of revenue. EMTEQ was acquired by B/E Aerospace in 2014 for a high multiple of revenue. Jerry, who is now co-founder and partner at STUCK LLC, discussed the challenges he faced along the way, particularly during EMTEQ’s startup phase.

February 21: Bob Tatterson, president of Xponential Ventures who previously held research and technology leadership positions at Sealed Air Corp., Brady Corp., GE Plastics and General Electric, discussed the ins and outs of corporate R&D, including why companies often look outside for technology that could have been developed internally and why corporate innovation often fails. He also talked about the advantages and disadvantages startups have vs. established corporate players.

January 24: Peter Skanavis, Founder and President of Homeowners Concept Realtors and an angel investor, discussed how he found an unmet need in For Sale by Owner sales and started Homeowners Concept. Peter also provided insight into what he looks for in the startups he chooses to invest in. The discussion was moderated by Grasshopper Co-Founder Kathleen Gallagher.

November 29, 2018: Lawrence J. Burnett, shareholder and co-chair of the Corporate Law Practice at the law firm of Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren, discussed alternative and other strategies for financing a startup. Larry has 30 years of experience helping both mature and early-stage businesses capitalize themselves. He works with companies and investors to determine the capital structure that makes the most sense for their businesses.

October 25, 2018: Dave Vasko, Director of Advanced Technology at Rockwell Automation, discussed how the Industrial Internet of Things is moving into the next generation of advances that are dramatically transforming factory floors and other industrial settings and the implications for future of work.

September 20, 2018: Mike Anderes discussed his organization’s strategies for harnessing local and global innovation to improve care and the community’s health, reinvent the consumer experience and reduce the cost of healthcare. Mike is Chief Innovation and Digital Officer for Froedtert Health and President of Inception Health, a company formed by the Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin health network to accelerate the adoption of digital health, identify and partner with innovative companies and increase the innovation capacity of the network.

Mike was joined by Jennifer Moore, Implementation Manager at PatientWisdom, a New Haven, Conn. startup that Inception Health co-developed. PatientWisdom has a digital platform that collects and shares patient stories to improve health and the experience of care.

July 19, 2018: Todd Sobotka, Managing Director and Investment Committee Chair at BrightStar Wisconsin Foundation, showed scenes from well-known movies to illustrate and spur discussion about the importance for startups of having a plan, listening to feedback and hustling.

May 24, 2018: Matt Cordio, Co-founder of Skills Pipeline, which operates a tech recruiting business and organizes Wisconsin Startup Week and other events, discussed our entrepreneurial ecosystem and ways to achieve more robust growth.

April 19, 2018: LeAnne Foster, Principal with Water Street Advisors, a mergers and acquisitions consulting firm, discussed how to position your company, create value and prepare for successful and lucrative exits.

March 22, 2018: Aaron Hagar, Vice President of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., discussed his division’s strategy and programs, along with associated metrics and historical trends. Aaron also talked with us about Wisconsin’s startup and risk capital funding landscape.

February 22, 2018: Lori Kuhn, Executive Coach, and Jill Bakke, Confidence Coach at Thrive Human Capital Development, led a discussion about how to position yourself in light of changed work habits, artificial intelligence and other technologies and other shifts in the business landscape.

January 23, 2018: Kathy Hust, President of Scanalytics Inc. and a former U.S. Cellular senior executive, discussed common problems startups face and how to overcome them.

November 28, 2017: Richard Stevens, Founder and CEO of Medical Advances and Molecular Specialties and Elissa Coyer, Marketing Director at Third Wave Bioactives — and a veteran of two other startups, Agtech Products and Agro Biosciences discussed building startups, exits and seriel entrepreneurship.

October 24, 2017: Dave Linz, Client Services Director at the UW-Extension’s Center for Technology Commercialization, discussed how to compete for federal grants. He was joined by Brian Armstrong, president and co-founder of Wauwatosa-based Metria Innovation Inc., which has received more than $1 million of federal grants to further development of its 3D measurement technologies.

September 26, 2017: Ken Johnson, Partner in the Badger Fund of Funds and managing director of Kegonsa Capital Partners, talked about criteria used by professional venture and angel investors to make their investment decisions.

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