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Grasshopper Rhythm

Jul 20, 2020

Did you know there’s an unofficial song of summer? And it comes from one particular insect.

Grasshopper calls are the elevator music of summer. As their rasping drones on, we soon tune it out.

Grasshoppers create songs that are repeated without a musical pitch. The songs aren’t whistles or trills. Instead, they sound like two pieces of sandpaper scratching together. It’s a sort of insect rhythm section. Let’s just say the noise doesn’t give you the urge to sing along.

A grasshopper makes its coarse tune by rubbing a series of small spines on its hind leg across a scraper on its wing, like sliding a thumbnail along the teeth of a comb. Each species has its own call to attract mates, just as birds do. Usually, only males take to music, attracting females with their calls. They mate, and the female lays eggs. Tiny nymphs hatch from the eggs the following spring. By late summer, the nymphs have grown through about five molts to become adults with a song.

Try tuning in to the grasshoppers when you go outside. Listen for their different calls, especially during the day, along roadsides and in woods and fields. You probably won’t find yourself humming along or trying to get a tune out of your head. But you will feel the vibes of summer in Missouri's great outdoors.

The Differential

  • Differential grasshoppers are a favorite bait for anglers.
  • Differential grasshoppers are an important component in the food chain for many animals, including foxes, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, amphibians, lizards, snakes, birds, turtles, bats, and many predatory spiders and insects.
  • Originally this species lived only in wet meadows and creek bottomlands, but with the spread of farms, it has become a pest of many food crops. Population numbers fluctuate from year to year.
  • At times, differential grasshoppers occur in large enough populations to cause severe damage to agricultural crops.

For more on the differential grasshopper, visit our Field Guide.

differential_grasshopper_12-21-11.jpg

differential grasshopper
Differential Grasshopper

admirable_grasshopper_2012.jpg

admirable grasshopper
Admirable Grasshopper

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