The long-horned grasshoppers (family Tettigoniidae) are characterized by antennae longer than the body and auditory organs on the forelegs. This family includes the katydids. The short-horned grasshoppers (family Acrididae) are characterized by antennae shorter than the body and auditory organs on the abdomen. This group includes the locust. Pygmy grasshoppers (family Tetrigidae) are less than 3/4 in. (20 mm) in length.
Most grasshoppers mate in the fall, after which the female lays the eggs in the ground or in plant tissues. The eggs of most species hatch in the spring. Newly hatched grasshoppers are similar to the adults except for their smaller size and lack of wings. After several molts, in which the young shed their old body coats and grow new ones, the winged adult stage is attained.
Most grasshoppers are plant feeders, attacking crops such as wheat, barley, corn, rye, and oats. The migratory grasshoppers, including the locusts, are a serious threat to agriculture. A few long-horned grasshoppers are carnivorous. Grasshoppers are typically found in temperate regions. They are classified in the phylum Arthropoda, class Insecta, order Orthoptera.
Short-horned grasshopper (Acrididae)
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Grasshoppers have antennae that are almost always shorter than the body (sometimes filamentous), and short ovipositors. Those species that make easily heard noises usually do so by rubbing the hind femurs against the forewings or abdomen (stridulation), or by snapping the wings in flight. Tympana, if present, are on the sides of the first abdominal segment. The hind femora are typically long and strong, fitted for leaping. Generally they are winged, but hind wings are membranous while front wings (tegmina) are coriaceous and not fit for flight. Females are normally larger than males, with short ovipositors. Males have a single unpaired plate at the end of the abdomen. Females have two pairs of valves (triangles) at the end of the abdomen used to dig in sand when egg laying.
They are easily confused with the other sub-order of Orthoptera, Ensifera, but are different in many aspects, such as the number of segments in their antennae and structure of the ovipositor, as well as the location of the tympana and modes of sound production. Ensiferans have antennae with at least 20-24 segments, and caeliferans have fewer. In evolutionary terms, the split between the Caelifera and the Ensifera is no more recent than the Permo-Triassic boundary (Zeuner 1939).
The salivary glands and midgut secrete digestive enzymes. The midgut secretes protease, lipase, amylase, and invertase, among other enzymes. The particular ones secreted vary within the different diets of grasshoppers.
The grasshopper's nervous system is controlled by ganglia, loose groups of nerve cells which are found in most species more advanced than cnidarians. In grasshoppers, there are ganglia in each segment as well as a larger set in the head, which are considered the brain. There is also a neuropile in the centre, through which all ganglia channel signals. The sense organs (sensory neurons) are found near the exterior of the body and consist of tiny hairs (sensilla), which consist of one sense cell and one nerve fibre, which are each specially calibrated to respond to a certain stimulus. While the sensilla are found all over the body, they are most dense on the antennae, palps (part of the mouth), and cerci (near the posterior). Grasshoppers also have tympanal organs for sound reception. Both these and the sensilla are linked to the brain via the neuropile.
In females, each ovary consists of ovarioles. These converge upon the two oviducts, which unite to create a common oviduct which carries ripe eggs. Each of the ovarioles consists of a germarium (a mass of cells that form oocytes, nurse cells, and follicular cells) and a series of follicles. The nurse cells nourish the oocytes during early growth stages, and the follicular cells provide materials for the yolk and make the eggshell (chorion).
During reproduction, the male grasshopper introduces sperm into the ovipositor through its aedeagus (reproductive organ), and inserts its spermatophore, a package containing the sperm, into the female's ovipositor. The sperm enters the eggs through fine canals called micropyles. The female then lays the fertilized egg pod, using her ovipositor and abdomen to insert the eggs about one to two inches underground, although they can also be laid in plant roots or even manure. The egg pod contains several dozens of tightly-packed eggs that look like thin rice grains. The eggs stay there through the winter, and hatch when the weather has warmed sufficiently. In temperate zones, many grasshoppers spend most of their life as eggs through the cooler months (up to 9 months) and the active states (young and adult grasshoppers) live only up to three months. The first nymph to hatch tunnels up through the ground, and the rest follow. Grasshoppers develop through stages and progressively get larger in body and wing size. This development is referred to as hemimetabolous or incomplete metamorphosis since the young are rather similar to the adult.
Grasshoppers have open circulatory systems, with most of the body fluid (haemolymph) filling body cavities and appendages. The one closed organ, the dorsal vessel, extends from the head through the thorax to the hind end. It is a continuous tube with two regions - the heart, which is restricted to the abdomen, and the aorta, which extends from the heart to the head through the thorax. Haemolymph is pumped forward from the hind end and the sides of the body through a series of valved chambers, each of which contains a pair of lateral openings (ostia). The haemolymph continues to the aorta and is discharged through the front of the head. Accessory pumps carry haemolymph through the wing veins and along the legs and antennae before it flows back to the abdomen. This haemolymph circulates nutrients through the body and carries metabolic wastes to the malphighian tubes to be excreted. Because it does not carry oxygen, grasshopper "blood" is green.
Respiration is performed using tracheae, air-filled tubes, which open at the surfaces of the thorax and abdomen through pairs of spiracles. The spiracle valves only open to allow oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange. The tracheoles, found at the end of the tracheal tubes, are insinuated between cells and carry oxygen throughout the body. (For more information on respiration, see Insect.)
Raw grasshoppers should be eaten with caution, as they can contain tapeworms.
Locusts are several species of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae that sometimes form very large groups (swarms); these can be highly destructive and migrate in a more or less coordinated way. Thus, these grasshoppers have solitary and gregarious (swarm) phases. Locust swarms can cause massive damage to crops. Important locust species include Schistocerca gregaria and Locusta migratoria in Africa and the Middle East, and Schistocerca piceifrons in tropical Mexico and Central America ([[Mesoamerica]). Other grasshoppers important as pests (which, unlike true locusts, do not change colour when they form swarms) include Melanoplus species (like M. bivittatus, M. femurrubrum and M. differentialis) and Camnula pellucida in North America; the lubber grasshopper Brachystola magna, and Sphenarium purpurascens in Northern and Central Mexico; species of Rhammatocerus in South America; and the Senegalese grasshopper Oedaleus senegalensis and the variegated grasshopper Zonocerus variegatus in Africa.