Yes, Grasshopper

Another cool critter

Another cool critter

What a mild winter we are having! A friend reminded me that this time last year we were covering our plants to protect them from a night time freeze. Today we’ll be enjoying 80 degrees and sunshine. So I don’t feel too bad featuring this handsome fellow although it was several weeks ago that I saw him. The gray birds are among the largest of grasshoppers, thus the name bird. They are also called desert locust. If you’ve hiked in the desert in the late spring or summer you’ve seen these hoppers leaping out from underfoot. They can jump more than 20 times the length of their bodies, thanks to a unique organ called the semilunar crescent located in the knee of the hind leg. This organ stores kinetic energy until the grasshopper needs to hop, and then releases the force in a sudden jolt that sends the insect sailing. The gray bird is also a strong fast flier.
The insect’s eggs are laid in the fall, packed together in a foamy protective mass in the soil. After the winter rains some of the eggs will hatch and those grasshoppers mature by April or May. But the largest cohort of babies hatch after the monsoon rains, and you’ll see them hopping and flying about the desert in search of good grazing from August into November.
Unlike 70% of insects that eat one type of plant, the grasshopper is a generalist and thrives on a variety of green fare. Most species of grasshopper flit from one plant to the next throughout the day, but the gray bird nibbles on one plant for long periods of time, choosing a spot where their cryptic coloring will allow them to blend in. This dedicated munching makes the gray bird a pest in some instances, and farmers dread infestations. This guy didn’t seem to be doing any damage.
Sources:
50 Common Insects of the Southwest
A Natural History of the Sonoran Desert

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One response to “Yes, Grasshopper

  1. AAAAAH! Creating tolerance…I love it that you didn’t totally criminalize the critter.

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