Three-Banded Grasshopper

Three-banded grasshopper resting on a grass stalk with a blue background
Scientific Name
Hadrotettix trifasciatus
Acrididae (short-horned grasshoppers) in the order Orthoptera (grasshoppers, katydids, crickets)

The three-banded grasshopper is one of our most attractively marked grasshoppers, with three sharply marked dark bands across the body. Although this is obviously a well-camouflaged insect, a closer look shows that the hind legs are quite colorful: the tibias (shin-like segments) are bright orangish red, and the inner sides of the femurs (thigh-like segments) are marked with deep blue.

Other key identifiers include a sharply defined diagonal line separating the dark middle band and the lighter outer portion of the hind femurs (on the outer side of each leg), and black antennae that are rather long.

The wings, when outstretched, are pale yellow with a dark brown border.

The overall color of this species varies with the color of the substrate. Populations living in areas with rust-colored soils are orangish, while those that live where the dirt is pale gray or tan blend in perfectly with those backgrounds.

Learn more about this and other short-horned grasshoppers on their group page.

Although many of Missouri's insects have their centers of distribution in the eastern half of the United States, or in the southeastern part of the country, the three-banded grasshopper is primarily a species of the desert southwest, western rangelands, and Great Plains. Its overall range extends from Arizona and Texas north to southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Dakotas, and straight south again to Texas. Missouri represents a rather odd-looking extension of the range map's otherwise uncurved eastern border.

The rise of facial recognition technology, its use in surveillance, and concerns about its potential for misuse have caused people worldwide to look for ways to conceal themselves from surveillance cameras. Some solutions, including avant-garde makeup techniques or portable lights, are based on the same idea as this grasshopper's camouflage: creating bold patterns of light and dark that confuse a computer's ability to sense and register the expected light-and-dark facial patterns of two eyes, a nose, a mouth, and a rounded face.

During World War I, British and American navy ships were painted in dazzle camouflage, bold black and white bars that similarly disrupted the enemy's ability to recognize the outlines of the ships and determine their heading and speed.

Crossbands are a powerful camouflage that disrupt the apparent outlines of an elongated creature. Looking from above, one does not see the true shape of this insect, only what seems like a random pattern of pebbles and their shadows. The banded sculpin, checkered madtom, and crystal darter are three examples of Missouri fishes that are prominently banded or checkered. Not surprisingly, they all occur in streams with clear water, making them otherwise visible from above. The saddleback crayfish and several other Ozark stream crayfish also have distinct bands, which help in the same way.
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Similar Species
About Land Invertebrates in Missouri
Invertebrates are animals without backbones, including earthworms, slugs, snails, and arthropods. Arthropods—invertebrates with “jointed legs” — are a group of invertebrates that includes crayfish, shrimp, millipedes, centipedes, mites, spiders, and insects. There may be as many as 10 million species of insects alive on earth today, and they probably constitute more than 90 percent all animal species.