|scientific name Melanoplus sanguinipes |
common name Migratory grasshopper
The migratory grasshopper is found in all North American habitats except the far north and Mexico (Pfadt 2002).
Melanoplus sanguinipes nymphs (no wings or short wing buds) hatch from May to June. Adults (wings extend past the abdomen) can be found about 35 to 55 days after the nymphs have hatched (Pfadt 2002). In Alberta they have been collected in July and August (Strickland Museum records).
Melanoplus sanguinipes is a medium-sized spurthroated grasshopper with long wings extending well past the abdomen. This and other grasshoppers of the subfamily Melanoplinae often have a spiny bump on their "throat" between their front legs (Johnson 2002). The males of this species can easily be identified by the notch in theirsubgenital plate, the rounded shape of their cerci and the node or bump on theirmesosternum. Adult females are slightly larger than the males but can be associated with them by their similar colour patterns (Pfadt 2002).
The life cycle of Melanoplus sanguinipes is described in Pfadt's Field Guide to Common Western Grasshoppers (2002). Nymphal maturation through the 5 instars is accelerated at high altitudes. The earlier emerging adults have better reproductive success because the eggs have more time to mature in the soil before winter diapause and more favourable moisture conditions. Males are able to recognize an unmated female and perform a short courtship ritual where they wave their antennae and vibrate their femora. About 6 days after mating, the female oviposits her clutch of eggs among the roots of blue grama or other prairie grasses. This may take up to an hour. The egg pods are curved; about 2.5 cm long, and contain 18 to 24 pale yellow or cream coloured eggs. Healthy adults copulate many times and a long-lived female may lay up to 20 egg pods.
The migratory grasshopper, as its name implies, congregates into swarms and migrates in search of food. It is a serious agricultural and rangeland pest causing the most damage of all the species of grasshoppers in the States (Pfadt 2002).
The migratory grasshopper consumes a mixture of plants that grow in its habitat, but seem to prefer dandelion, tumble mustard, wild mustard, pepperweed, western ragweed, downy brome, Kentucky bluegrass, barley, and wheat (Pfadt 2002).
This migratory grasshopper ranges from coast to coast across North America, spreading as far north as Alaska and the Canadian territories and as far south as the southern States (based on range map in Pfadt 2002). In has been found in mid-Alberta (Strickland Museum records).
The daily habits of Melanoplus sanguinipes are greatly influenced by their surrounding temperature inducing the normal sun basking and night-time retreat behaviours (Pfadt 2002).
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