red-legged grasshopper

(Melanoplus femurrubrum)

               
Conservation Status

IUCN Red List

not yet assessed red-legged grasshopper

NatureServe

N5 - Secure

Occurrence

Common and abundant. Crop pest.

Flight/Season

Early summer to mid-fall

Habitat

Prairies, woodland edges, roadsides, croplands, gardens, and disturbed areas

Size

 


Identification

This is a common, medium-sized, spur-throated, short-horned grasshopper. It is a strong flyer, commonly flying 30 to 40 feet when flushed. It is the most abundant species of grasshopper in the eastern United States.

The body is dark brown to greenish or reddish-brown. The underside is often bright yellow.

There is a dark stripe behind each eye the continues onto the pronotum and ends abruptly at the hindmost ridge (principle sulcus). There is a distinct, spiny bump (spur) at the base of the neck, between the base of the forelegs. The antennae are red or reddish-brown and are no more than ½ the length of the body.

On the middle pair of legs, the foot (tarsus) is divided into two segments. On the hind pair of legs, the narrow upper portion (the outer face) of the hind femur is dull yellow, is not banded, and usually becomes gradually darker from the base to the tip. The narrow lower portion (the inner face) of the hind femur is yellow. The middle portion of the femur, the broad area between the outer face and inner face, is grooved in a distinct herringbone or chevron pattern. The hind tibia is bright red.

The lower end plate beneath the genitalia (the subgenital plate) is bulbous. The pair of long appendages on the last abdominal segment (cerci) are long and pointed, but this is not visible without a hand lens.

The wings are long, projecting beyond the tip of the abdomen when at rest.

 
Similar
Species

Migratory grasshopper (Melanoplus sanguinipes) hind tibia are bluish-green or red. The subgenital plate is notched. The cerci are shorter and are rounded.


Food

A wide variety of forbs and grasses, including crops such as corn, alfalfa, soybeans, small grains, tobacco, and vegetables.

 
Life Cycle

The female thrusts its ovipositor into sod and deposits a pod containing 20 to 26 eggs. The pods are about ¾ long and to 3 16 wide. The female continues depositing egg pods in a scattered pattern, ultimately laying up to 300 or more eggs. The eggs hatch in the spring when plants are green over a period of about 52 days. The nymphs mature into adults in about 40 days. Due to variations in soil moisture and temperature nymphs can be found throughout the summer.

 
Behavior

 


Distribution Range Map   Sources: 7, 19.

Comments

Center of Distribution
Southeastern Minnesota is part of the 78,000 square mile center of distribution for the red-legged grasshopper. Conditions in this area are especially favorable, the grasshopper is especially abundant, and outbreaks are frequent.

Migration
In years of drought adults develop longer wings which enable them to migrate long distances.


Taxonomy

Order:

Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, katydids)

 

Suborder:

Caelifera (grasshoppers)

 

No Rank:

Acridomorpha

 

Superfamily:

Acridoidea

 

Family:

Acrididae (short-horned grasshoppers)

 

Subfamily:

Melanoplinae (spur-throated grasshoppers)

 

Tribe:

Melanoplini

 
Synonyms

 

 
Common
Names

redlegged grasshopper

red-legged grasshopper


 

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

 

femur

In insects, the largest, most robust segment of the leg, coming immediately before the tibia. In humans, the thigh bone.

 

pronotum

The saddle-shaped, exoskeletal plate on the upper side of the first segment in the thorax on an insect.

 

tibia

The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

       

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  Red-legged Grasshopper (Acrididae: Melanoplus femurrubrum) Nymph
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Jul 6, 2010

Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (06 July 2010).

 
     
  Red-legged Grasshopper Nymph (Acrididae: Melanoplus femurrubrum) Male
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Jul 28, 2011

Photographed at Grand Forks, North Dakota (28 July 2011). Thank you to David Ferguson (@Bugguide.net) for confirming the identity of this specimen as well as identifying the sex!

 
     

 

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