Where do grasshoppers originate from

Where do grasshoppers originate from

The public talk was held on Thursday December 15th, 2011 at the Uganda Museum to discuss the topic “The Natural history of the grasshopper and its lucrative trade in Uganda”.

The Grasshopper, commonly referred to as ‘Nseenene’ in Luganda is a short-horned bush cricket or katydid of the suborder Caelifera in the order Orthoptera. The coloring of different species of grasshoppers is often dependent on the environment with many species adapted to green fields and forests to avoid predators. Others have adapted to drier, sandy environments and blend in well with the colors of dry dirt and sand. In certain countries, grasshoppers are eaten as a good source of protein and in Mexico for example, they are regarded as a good source of protein, minerals and vitamins. They are usually collected at dusk, using lamps or electric lighting, in sweep nets. They are usually placed in water for 24 hours, after which they can be boiled or eaten raw, sun-dried, fried, flavoured with spices, drenched in lime, and used in soup or as a filling for various dishes.

In central Uganda, it is a delicacy as well as an important source of income. This insect is also eaten in neighboring areas of Kenya and Tanzania. However, little information is in people’s domain about their origin, breeding and migration patterns. Prof William Banage studied the natural history of these insects and Mr. John Loannis Gatsiounis has been following the trade patterns and shared this information at the public talk.

Prof William Banage informed us that the grasshopper lies in the class of Insephera (long horned) which also includes crickets. He mentioned that grasshoppers (Nsenene) occur in six color morphs, the most dominant being Green. The different color forms are for protection. The green ones mimic the green vegetation, brown – dry vegetation and purple – dying grass Green is the most dominant color of females and most of the brown ones are male. Other colors include green with purple head, green wih brown head, brown with green head and the most rare color is purple. This is Ecological morphism. These insects are norcturnal and breed in generalised areas. They inhabit in Central and West Africa – Zambia and are wide spread in intertropical areas.

We see the Nsenene during their breeding season these seasons being the rainy seasons, that is March – April and October – December. During this season, males are often seen chasing females, mating on traffic lights. They fly and land before day break.

Harvesting of these insects started in Masaka but it is now in Tooro, Bunyoro, Kampala by using electric lights and many other areas. There is however, no information about where these insects breed. Perhaps researchers will pick interest in this subject matter and avail us with the information.

We thank all those who attended the public talk and look forward to seeing you again for our next public talk and other events.


Entomology Today

Brought to you by the Entomological Society of America

The Origin of Grasshoppers, Katyd >

By John P. Roche

The order Orthoptera — which includes the familiar crickets, katydids, and grasshoppers — is a huge and diverse group of winged insects with more than 25,000 species, many of which are scientifically and economically important. Because of its size, understanding the evolutionary relationships in the Orthoptera is important, but up until recently, the hypothesized taxonomy of the group was disorganized and inconsistent. A giant step in correcting this problem was made with a recent study of the evolutionary relationships of the Orthoptera, published in the journal Cladistics by Hojun Song of Texas A&M University and his colleagues.

Previous analyses of the taxonomy of the Orthoptera were based on physical traits, or on genetic evidence from relatively small numbers of samples. The problem with using physical traits for inferring evolutionary relationships is that organisms can have profound physical similarities shaped not by shared ancestry but by similar selective pressures arising from similar environments — a process known as convergent evolution. By looking at DNA sequences, on the other hand, scientists can infer evolutionary relationships much more accurately because similarities in the genetic code more reliably reflect evolutionary relationships. With DNA studies, the larger the number of samples, the more comprehensive the analysis.

The most extensive molecular study of the phylogeny of the Orthoptera prior to Song’s study was performed by Paul Flook and colleagues in 1999. Flook’s study looked at only 31 orthopteran taxa and only three genetic loci. Song’s study used DNA samples taken from 254 different taxa within the Orthoptera. For his genetic evidence, Song and his colleagues used the entire mitochondrial genome as well as some DNA from the nucleus. Mitochondria are organelles within eukaroytic cells that contain their own DNA, separate from the DNA found in the nucleus. Mitochondrial DNA is hypothesized to be a remnant of a past endosymbiosis between bacteria and eukaryotes. The advantage of mitochondrial DNA is that, being vestigial, it is less subject to stabilizing selective pressures that resist genetic change, so mitochondrial DNA changes more rapidly, thus providing a finer-grained yardstick for inferring branchings on an evolutionary tree. By using the entire mitochondrial genome, Song and colleagues were able to resolve evolutionary relationships in the Orthoptera over broad time scales.

With their DNA samples, Song and colleagues reconstructed the phylogeny of the Orthoptera using the science of cladistics, which infers evolutionary relationships based on the number of shared characters. Song used two different cladistics techniques: parsimony and maximum likelihood. Parsimony is a tool that looks for the simplest possible taxonomic hypothesis; maximum likelihood is a statistical tool that computes the probability of particular evolutionary trees and comes up with the highest probability tree. Song added all of the data together into a “total evidence phylogeny.” The resulting phylogeny is much more robust than previous trees constructed for the Orthoptera. The results from the DNA analysis were then calibrated with fossil information to determine the dates at which subgroups on the tree branched off from one another.

Analysis of the genetic and fossil data revealed that the order Orthoptera originated in the Carboniferous period (

350–300 million years ago) and the two suborders diverged in the Permian (

300–250 million years ago). The analysis found six superfamilies within the Ensifera and nine superfamilies within the Caelifera (superfamilies are a taxonomic group above the level of a family and below the level of a suborder). Song’s study provides what is by far the most rigorous and comprehensive phylogeny of the Orthoptera to date. Song made numerous important discoveries about specific patterns of relationship and divergence in subgroups of the Orthoptera. I summarize some of the key findings relating to the most diverse of the superfamilies below.

The crickets (superfamily Grylloidea) diverged from other Orthopterans in the Triassic period (

250–200 million years ago) and continued diverging throughout the Triassic and Jurassic periods (

200–145 million years ago). With more than 4,800 species alive today, they are the third most diverse group in the order. A key characteristic of crickets — the trait by which we know and love them — is their music. Crickets use acoustic communication to find mates, and thus their songs are shaped by sexual selection. Traits under sexual selection tend to diverge rapidly, and thus acoustic communication might be a factor in the rapid divergence observed in crickets.

The katydids (superfamily Tettigonioidea) evolved in the Cretaceous period (

145–65 million years ago) and diversified at the same time that flowering plants were diversifying. They are the second most diverse Orthopteran group, with more than 7,000 species. The wings of many katydids look like the leaves of flowering plants, which provides camouflage against predators. Therefore, natural selection may have shaped katydid wings to blend in with the leaves of flowering plants. We know that the leaf-shaped wings of katydids can provide a selective advantage via camouflage in the present, but we do not know if leaf-shaped wings evolved for this reason in the past. However, leaf-shaped wings evolved independently several times in the katydids, and this provides support for the evolved-for-camouflage hypothesis.

The grasshoppers (superfamily Acridoidea) are the most diverse group within the Orthoptera, with about 8,000 current species. Grasshoppers diverged in the mid to late Cenozoic Era (

65 million years ago to the present), and are therefore the most recent of the orthopteran superfamilies. Their evolution coincided with the origin and radiation of grasslands. All grasshoppers are herbivores, and grasshoppers are major consumers of grassland biomass.

Another intriguing finding of the study was that whereas there was a relatively steady and slow background rate of diversification in the Orthoptera over time, there were three instances where there was a high rate of evolutionary divergence. One was a rapid diversification in the Cenozoic that occurred in the branch containing the families Acrididae, Romaleidae, and Ommexechidae (the node of this diversification event is indicated by the lowest of the three black dots indicated by vertical black arrows in the figure above). There was also an instance of an increased rate of diversification in the family Pamphagidae (indicated by the middle of the three black dots in the figure). In addition, there was an instance of rapid diversification in the branch containing the families Tettigoniidae, Rhaphidophoridae, Prophalangopsiadae, Anostostomatidae, Gryllacrididae, and Stenopelmatidae (indicated by the highest of the three black dots in the figure).

In their study, Song and his colleagues made valuable discoveries that refined our understanding of orthopteran phylogeny. But many questions remain for further investigation. What are potential next steps in the investigation of orthopteran evolution? One practical step would be to obtain more DNA samples from the Gryllidea and run phylogenetic analyses on that group, as it was under-sampled in comparison with other groups in this study. Another question relates to the three nodes where rapid diversification was observed: Why was there rapid divergence in these instances? On a big-question level, one thing that particularly intrigues Dr. Song is the evolution of acoustic communication in Orthopterans.

“Crickets sing, katydids sing, and even grasshoppers sing,” Dr. Song said in an interview. “They use different mechanisms for generating sound and receiving sound. How did the acoustic communication evolve and diversify and in what context?”

All of these questions will provide fertile ground for future work on the evolutionary ecology of this group. Given the rapid diversification driven by sexual selection on their songs, we can wonder what the next newly-evolved group of Orthopterans will look and sound like, and how its behavior and its morphology will differ from its relatives — and why?

Read more at:

John P. Roche is a science writer and author with a PhD and a postdoctoral fellowship in the biological sciences. He has served as editor-in-chief of university research periodicals at Indiana University and Boston College, has published more than 150 articles, and has written and taught extensively about science and science writing. Dr. Roche also directs Science View Productions™, which provides technical writing and developmental editing for clients in academia and industry.



Grasshoppers are herbivorous insects of the suborder Caelifera in the order Orthoptera. To distinguish them from bush crickets or katydids, they are sometimes referred to as short-horned grasshoppers. Species that change colour and behaviour at high population densities are called locusts.

A Grasshopper is an amazing insect that can leap 20 times the length of its own body. If you or I could do that, we would be able to jump almost 40 yards!

A Grasshopper does not actually ‘jump’. What they do is use their legs as a catapult. Grasshoppers can both jump and fly and they can reach a speed of 8 miles per hour when flying. There are about 18,000 different species of grasshoppers.

Grasshopper Characteristics

Grasshoppers are medium to large insects. Adult length is 1 to 7 centimetres, depending on the species. Like their relatives the ‘katydids’ and ‘crickets’, they have chewing mouthparts, two pairs of wings, one narrow and tough, the other wide and flexible, and long hind legs for jumping. They are different from these groups in having short antennae that do not reach very far back on their bodies.

Grasshoppers usually have large eyes, and are coloured to blend into their environment, usually a combination of brown, grey or green. In some species the males have bright colours on their wings that they use to attract females. A few species eat toxic plants, and keep the toxins in their bodies for protection. They are brightly coloured to warn predators that they taste bad.

Female grasshoppers are larger than the males and have sharp points at the end of their abdomen that are there to help them lay eggs underground. Male grasshoppers sometimes have special structures on their wings that they rub their hind legs on or rub together to make sounds.

Grasshoppers can be found almost everywhere in the world, except for the colder regions near the North and South poles.

Types of Grasshopper

There are two main groups of grasshoppers:

(1) long-horned grasshoppers

(2) short-horned grasshoppers

Grasshoppers are divided according to the length of their antennae (feelers), which are also called horns. Short-horned grasshoppers are usually called ‘locusts’.

Grasshopper Habitat and Grasshopper Diet

Grasshoppers live in fields, meadows and just about anywhere they can find generous amounts of food to eat. A grasshopper has a hard shell and a full grown grasshopper is about one and a half inches, being so small you would not think they would eat much – but you would be so wrong – they eat lots and lots – an average grasshopper can eat 16 time its own weight.

The grasshoppers favourite foods are grasses, leaves and cereal crops. One particular grasshopper – the Shorthorn grasshopper only eats plants, but it can go berserk and eat every plant in sight – makes you wander where they put it all.

Grasshopper Behaviour

Grasshoppers are most active during the day, but also feed at night. They do not have nests or territories and some species go on long migrations to find new supplies of food. Most species are solitary and only come together to mate, but the migratory species sometimes gather in huge groups of millions or even billions of individuals.

When a grasshopper is picked up, they ‘spit’ a brown liquid which is known as ‘tobacco juice’. Some scientists believe that this liquid may protect grasshoppers from attacks by insects such as ants and other predators – they ‘spit’ the liquid at them then catapult up and fly off quickly.

Grasshoppers also try to escape from their enemies hiding in the grass or among leaves. If you have ever tried to catch grasshoppers in a field, you know how quickly they can disappear by dropping down into the tall grass.

Grasshopper Predators

The grasshoppers greatest enemies include various kinds of flies that lay their eggs in or near grasshopper eggs. After the fly eggs hatch, the newborn flies eat the grasshopper eggs. Some flies will even lay their eggs on the grasshoppers body, even while the grasshopper is flying. The newborn flies then eat the grasshopper. Other enemies of grasshoppers include beetles, birds, mice, snakes and spiders.


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.


Critter Catalog


Local animals in this group:

Additional information:

Find grasshoppers information at


What do they look like?

Grasshoppers are medium to large insects. Adult length is 1 to 7 cm, depending on the species. Like their relatives the katydids and crickets, they have chewing mouthparts, two pairs of wings, one narrow and tough, the other wide and flexible, and long hind legs for jumping. They are different from these groups in having short antennae that don’t reach very far back on their bodies.

Grasshoppers usually have large eyes, and are colored to blend into their environment, usually a combination of brown, gray or green. In some species the males have bright colors on their wings that they use to attract females. A few species eat toxic plants, and keep the toxins in their bodies for protection. They are brightly colored to warn predators that they taste bad.

Female grasshoppers are larger than the males, and have sharp points at the end of their abdomen that they to help lay eggs underground. Male grasshoppers sometimes have special structures on their wings that they can rub their hind legs on or rub together to make sounds.

  • Other Physical Features
  • ectothermic
  • bilateral symmetry
  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • female larger
  • male more colorful
  • Range length 1.0 to 7.0 cm 0.39 to 2.76 in

Where do they live?

Grasshoppers are found on all continents except Antarctica. There are over 10,000 species of grasshoppers known, about 50 of which are found in Michigan.

What kind of habitat do they need?

Most grasshoppers prefer dry open habitats with lots of grass and other low plants, though some species live in forests or jungles. Many of the grassland species invade farmer’s fields too.

How do they grow?

Grasshoppers all hatch from eggs, and as they grow they go through incomplete metamorphosis. This means that each stage looks a lot like the adult, but adds a few changes each time the young grasshopper sheds its skin. Grasshoppers usually shed 5 or 6 times. After the last time, they are adults and can reproduce. Most species also get wings when they are adults.

How long do they live?

Most grasshoppers can only survive the winter as an egg; the adults all die when it gets cold. In warm climates which don’t have freezing winters, grasshoppers can probably live longer, maybe for several years. Most die long before that though, from disease or predators or drought.

How do they behave?

Grasshoppers are most active during the day, but also feed at night. They don’t have nests or territories, and some species go on long migrations to find new supplies of food. Most species are solitary, and only come together to mate, but the migratory species sometimes gather in huge groups of millions or even billions of individuals.

How do they communicate with each other?

Grasshoppers mainly use sound and sight to communicate, though like animals, scent and touch are important during mating. In some species males vibrate their wings or rub their wings with their legs to make sounds that attract females.

What do they eat?

Grasshoppers are herbivores, they eat plants. They mostly eat leaves, but also flowers, stems and seeds. Sometimes they also scavenge dead insects for extra protein.

What eats them and how do they avo >Grasshoppers jump or fly away, and then hide if they can. Some species eat toxic plants and keep the toxins in their bodies to discourage predators.

What roles do they have in the ecosystem?

Grasshoppers can be important herbivores. There are sometimes so many, eating so much, that they change the richness and abundance of plant species where they live.

Do they cause problems?

Some grasshopper species are important pests of agriculture. They eat the plants that farmers grow in their fields. This is not usually a big problem in North America, but it has been in the past, and is still a major problem in Africa and Asia.

  • Ways that these animals might be a problem for humans
  • crop pest

How do they interact with us?

Grasshoppers are an important food for other animals. Some species eat weed plants that are bad for cattle and horses.

Are they endangered?

No grasshoppers are known to be endangered.

  • IUCN Red List [Link] Not Evaluated


George Hammond (author), Animal Diversity Web.


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