The Great Grasshopper Hunt

Meadow Grasshopper (Pseudochorthippus parallelus) © Greg Hitchcock

Grasshoppers and crickets are in the insect order Orthoptera, which means ‘Straight wings’. This group also includes bush-crickets and groundhoppers.

At least 38 species of grasshopper and cricket have been recorded in the UK, several of which have arrived naturally – including the Large Conehead (Ruspolia nitidula) and Sickle-bearing Bush-cricket (Phaneroptera falcata). Both these species have been recorded on the southeast coast of England and have the potential to increase their range in the country.


 

The chirping singing calls of grasshoppers and crickets are a common addition to the soundscape of a warm summer’s day in the UK. Like birds, these calls can be used to identify the species making the song.

As well as their song, Orthoptera are well known for their enlarged hind legs, which they use for jumping – some to great distances to escape predators. The young larvae, or nymphs, look very similar to the adults except for the lack of wings. They will shed their skin, also known as moulting, several times before reaching their adult breeding stage.

Another well-known feature in the order Orthoptera, is the various colour forms of some species. While most are green or brown with tints of yellows, blues, oranges and purples, there are some species that can be entirely pink in colour, most notably the Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus) and the Common Green Grasshopper (Omocestus viridulus).

Differences between grasshoppers and crickets can vary but usually, there are two easy ways to distinguish between the groups. One is their antennae; crickets typically have long antennae whereas grasshoppers have short antennae. The other is the method by which they stridulate (which means to sing). Crickets rub their back legs together to create the songs we hear, but grasshoppers rub their long hind legs against their wings. Read more about the difference between crickets and grasshoppers.

Common Green Grasshopper (Omocestus viridulus) © Jaybee (www.phocus-on.co.uk)

Recording Orthoptera and their relatives

Like many other groups of invertebrates, Orthoptera and their relatives are not well recorded in the UK. The Grasshopper and Related Insect recording scheme of Britain and Ireland was launched in 1968 with support from the Biological Records Centre. The scheme collects records of all Orthoptera recorded from the UK and Ireland, as well as related insects that include earwigs (order Dermaptera), cockroaches (order Blattodea), stick insects (order Phasmatodea) and mantids (order Mantodea). 

iRecord is an online app which can help in recording grasshoppers and related insects and can be downloaded directly onto your phone. The app has several features to aid in identifying species, including information about each species that has been recorded in the UK and Ireland, high quality images and sound files of each vocal species. There is also the ability to record and submit sound recordings of the species you found. These are all verified by an expert and your record will then be added to the National Biodiversity Network Atlas and used to help conservation efforts for Orthoptera.

Long-winged Conehead (Conocephalus fuscus) © Simon Munnery

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