Where do they come from grasshopper

Where do they come from grasshopper

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.


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.



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.


Where do they come from grasshopper

Texas Cooperative Extension, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas

Grasshoppers: Frequently Asked Questions, 2003

Dr. Allen Knutson,
Professor & Extension Entomologist, Texas Cooperative Extension

hy are grasshoppers so bad this year, again? Consecutive years of hot, dry summers and warm, dry autumns favor grasshopper survival and reproduction. Warm, dry fall weather allows grasshoppers more time to feed and lay eggs. The large numbers of grasshoppers present last fall left many eggs in the soil which hatched this spring. Also, rains in the spring when eggs are hatching drown young hoppers. Thus, dry weather in the spring favors their survival.

Grasshopper, Brachystala magna

Where do grasshoppers come from?
Grasshopper eggs are deposited in the soil l/2 – 2 inches deep in weedy areas, fencerows, ditches and hay fields. The eggs hatch in the spring and early summer. Eggs of different grasshopper species hatch out at different times, so young grasshoppers can be seen throughout the spring and early summer. Young grasshoppers, called nymphs, feed for about six weeks. Once nymphs reach the adult stage, they can fly. As weedy plants are consumed or dry in the summer heat, adult grasshoppers can fly from weedy areas and pastures to more succulent crops and landscapes.

When will grasshopper numbers decrease this season?
Although grasshoppers complete only one generation a year, eggs hatch over a long period of time. Development from egg to adult requires about 40-60 days. Also, eggs of different species hatch at different times so small grashoppers can be found throughout the growing season. Grasshopper can persist until late fall when old adults begin to die or when a killing frost occurs.

What can be done to reduce their numbers?
Weed control. Eliminating weeds will starve young hoppers and later discourage adults from laying eggs in the area. Destroying weeds infested with large numbers of grasshoppers can force the hungry grasshoppers to move to nearby crops or landscapes. Control the grasshoppers in the weedy area first with insecticides or be ready to protect nearby crops if they become infested. Grasshoppers deposit their eggs in undisturbed soil, as in fallow fields, road banks, and fence rows. Shallow tillage of the soil in late summer may be of some benefit in discouraging egg lay.

Are insecticides effective?
Grasshoppers are susceptible to many insecticides. However, insecticides typically do not persist more than a few days and grasshoppers may soon re-invade the treated area. The length of control will depend on the residual activity of the insecticides and the frequency of retreatment. Controlling grasshoppers over a large area will reduce the numbers present which can re-infest a treated area. Dimilin 2L provides long residual of young hoppers but is not effective against adults.

When should insecticides be applied?
Monitor grasshopper infestations and treat threatening infestations while grasshopper are still small and before they move into crops and landscapes. Immature grasshoppers (without wings) are more susceptible to insecticides than adults.

What about insecticide baits for grasshopper control?
Sevin 5 Bait is a ready-to-use bait which can be applied to many crop and non-crop sites, including around ornamentals and many fruit and vegetable crops. For those wanting to make their own grashopper bait, the labels for Sevin XLR and Sevin 4-Oil ULV provide directions for mixing these products with cereal grains to make a 2% to 10% carbaryl bait. The bait is labeled for use in rangeland, wasteland, ditch banks and roadsides. The label further states the bait is for use “only by government personnel or persons under their direct supervision (e.g. USDA, state and local extension personnel, etc.)”

Are biological control products such as Nolo Bait, Grashopper Attack, and others effective?
These products contain spores of a protozoan called Nosema locustae, formulated in a bait. Grasshoppers consuming the bait become infected by the Nosema organism. Some immature grasshoppers die while adults often survive but females lay fewer eggs. Nosema baits act too slowly and kill too few grasshoppers to be much value when the need for control is immediate.

Some insecticides for controlling grasshoppers in the home landscape at present (2003) include:

  • Cyfluthrin. The active ingredient in Bayer Advanced Home and Garden Spray
  • Bifenthrin. Active ingredient in Ortho Ready-to-Use Houseplant and Garden Insect Killer
  • Permethrin. Active ingredient in Spectracide and other products.
  • Acephate. Active ingredient in Orthene (at present, but being phased out).

Note: Tempo (cyfluthrin) and Demon (cypermethrin) are labeled for use by Professional Pest Control Operators (2003) for insect control in lawns and landscapes.

What insecticides can be used in ornamental production?
Several products may be used including those containing bifenthrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, diazinon, dimethoate, malathion, acephate and carbaryl (2003).

For more information, see: Extension bulletin L-5201, Grasshoppers and Their Control.


The Ugandan love of grasshoppers – and how to harvest them

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It is grasshopper season in Uganda, where they are seen as a nutritious delicacy – either boiled or deep-fried. They are so popular that some are worried about declining harvests, as the BBC’s Patience Atuhaire reports.

It is dusk. Rusty oil barrels are lined up in rows. Wooden scaffolding holds up unpainted iron sheets. The blindingly bright lights are rigged up as if for a sports stadium. But the four young men are not preparing to play football, they are here to catch grasshoppers.

At this time of year, during the rainy season, the scene is repeated in many towns across the country.

“When the season starts, we watch the cycle of the moon, and prepare. [They tend to come out at full moon]. We also keep hoping for rain. The larger numbers appear when it has rained,” says Quraish Katongole, one of Uganda’s most experienced grasshopper trappers.

He is the chairman of a group that coordinates the grasshopper trade around the country.

As his workers set up the last of the barrels at a trapping site here on the edge of Masaka town, he heads off to supervise work at other locations.

Salty, crunchy flavour

As it grows darker, the slim-bodied nocturnal insects start to swarm around the lights. Most of them are green, but there are sprinklings of ashy-brown and golden-brown.

The trappers burn fresh grass and the rising smoke makes the insects dizzy. The grasshoppers smash against the iron sheets, falling straight into the drums. It sounds like fat raindrops on a tin roof. And as the numbers increase, it becomes a steady downpour.

Women, schoolgirls still in their uniforms, even children, scour the bushes surrounding the traps, picking up the escapees that have avoided the barrels, before they can burrow further into the greenery.

The edible insects are a delicacy in many Ugandan communities, and for the urban population, a sought-after snack.

During rush hour in the capital, Kampala, young people with baskets or plastic buckets, weave through the traffic selling boiled or deep fried ready-to-eat grasshoppers to commuters. A tablespoonful costs 1,000 Uganda shillings ($0.27, £0.21).

Others sell fresh green ones, with the wings and legs already plucked off, that can be prepared at home.

Even though most Ugandans love the grasshoppers, I last tasted them as a child, so I vaguely remember the crunchy, salty flavour.

But the idea of popping a roasted insect into my mouth has never appealed to my grown-up taste-buds.

‘Eat more insects’

Ugandans, and others in the region, are among over two billion people worldwide who eat different species of insects, according to a UN estimate.

But in Uganda, the number of grasshoppers could be falling as their feeding and breeding habitats around Lake Victoria are shrinking.

Every year between 2010 and 2015 the country lost over 46,000 hectares (114,000 acres) of its natural forest cover, according to the National Forest Authority.

In the greater Masaka area, which is the traditional hub of the grasshopper industry, 9,000 hectares of wild habitat were converted into farmland or for settlement use between 1990 and 2005.

Nearby, on the road towards Bukakata Port on the shores of Lake Victoria, large trees have been felled in a forest reserve. Large swathes of what was formerly forest and grassland are now pineapple plantations.

Mr Katongole has witnessed this transformation.

“There was a huge natural forest and swamps in this area, and in the islands; they were all cut down. That resulted in the numbers of grasshoppers appearing in this region each season declining,” he says.

Speaking from 30 years’ experience in the trade, he adds: “You’d hear people say; ‘I am going to Masaka, that is where there are grasshoppers’, but that has changed.”

And the evidence from the night’s work backs that up.

The young men empty the drums pouring their catch into white sacks. For all that frenzied swarming, they manage to fill just two sacks.

Grasshopper transport

“There was a time when I would catch 20 to 25 sacks a night,” Mr Katongole comments, crestfallen.

At about 05:00 local time (02:00 GMT), he loads up a saloon car with sacks collected from around town and a colleague makes the three-hour drive to Kampala, where each sack can fetch at least $80 (£63).

But the demand for grasshoppers is not only in the capital.

The morning brings a whirlwind of activity in the main market on the outskirts of Masaka. To attract buyers, vendors call out prices, while some adopt a musical approach by singing and clapping their hands.

Some sell out of barrels, while others use large plastic buckets or trays. Grasshoppers in all forms are on display; sellers measure out cupfuls or handfuls of fresh ones into plastic bags.

Saucepans of boiling insects sit on charcoal stoves.

Agnes Nansamba is smiling as she cooks. A smaller harvest means more customers for her. She lifts a pan and shakes it, turning the grasshoppers over.

‘God-given’ treat

“We used to sell here all day and you would not get enough customers. But today, I’ve boiled just 12 cupfuls. I will sell each at 5,000 Uganda shillings ($1.35). A few weeks ago, the price was [even] higher,” she says.

As we speak, a truck with sacks hanging from metal railings pulls up. Many of the traders run over to replenish their stock.

In the melee, no-one gives a thought as to where the insects appear from. They just know that they come in May and November, when the rains fall. They see them as a gift from God.

But a group of Ugandan scientists are trying to understand more about their life cycle to see if they can be harvested in a more sustainable way.

Prof Phillip Nyeko, the lead researcher, says that apart from loss of habitat, aggressive harvesting presents another threat.

“They do not swarm to be eaten, they swarm to feed and breed. But when you put up lights and collect them in the thousands, you’re upsetting their life cycle.

“You don’t know if you’re picking egg-laying ones, male or female. So don’t be surprised if there are fewer the next season.”

More from Patience Atuhaire:

Artificial breeding

His team is researching the possibility of breeding and rearing grasshoppers in a controlled way to make them available all year round.

“We are trying to develop procedures or protocols on how you can mass-rear these insects. Developing the feeds that are nutritious, and the feeds that produce the insects that we want in terms of their quality, in terms of their taste,” he explains.

Prof Nyeko says his team will experiment with mass breeding at the end of next year.

If they succeed, Ugandans will be happy to know that they can continue to enjoy a grasshopper snack and not only during the rainy season.


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