Grasshopper Life Cycle – With Facts & Pictures
Today’s article is about grasshoppers’ life cycle. Or is it locusts? Things can get confusing fast since people don’t know whether these two words are synonymous. Or, if they aren’t, where grasshoppers end and locusts begin.
While the two look pretty much identical in all respects, their difference comes down to behavior. Most grasshoppers are solitary animals, rarely forming coalitions in search of food or better environmental conditions. Locusts are a different species of grasshoppers that tend to exhibit gregarious behavior (the propensity to swarm when the right conditions arise.
Locusts tend to swarm when they become overcrowded, and they are short on food. In other words, not all grasshoppers are locusts, but all locusts are grasshoppers.
So, let’s see what grasshoppers are all about and how their life cycle unfolds.
The egg is where all the magic begins, and there’s a lot of magic going on. The female grasshopper is one of the most prolific insects, capable of laying a lot of eggs at once. The female will cover the batches of eggs with a sticky, protective substance, which will create an egg pod.
The egg pod can contain as little as 10-15 eggs and as many as 300. Given that there are, on average, 15 egg pods, the resulting math is mind-bending. It comes out that the female grasshopper can lay 3,000-4,000 eggs at once. Even if half of them is lost, the other half still result in an astounding number of tiny grasshoppers.
The eggs will then lay dormant throughout the cold season and only hatch when the temperatures are right. This generally happens in late spring or early summer.
The nymphs will hatch in the beginning of the cold season in larger numbers. This is to flood the area with bodies and ensure the survival of as many as possible. The nymphs are hungry, and they show it. They will typically start eating right away and consume a lot of food throughout their lifespan.
Appearance-wise, they are similar with only minor exceptions. The grasshopper nymphs are smaller, with lighter colors, and lacking the wings. Their primary means of locomotion is jumping since their hind legs are sufficiently developed for that. Other than that, they are overall identical with the adults.
The nymph will grow via molting. This is the process of shedding the old skin to make room for the growing body, and the entire molting process will consist of 5 of 6 phases. The entire journey from nymph to adult will last approximately 10 days. It can also last 5, depending on the weather conditions, the temperature, available food, and humidity. It’s during this time that the nymph will begin to grow its wings.
The molting process is a crucial event in an animal’s life since it marks its growth. There are a lot of creatures that molt, many of which are insects. Grasshoppers undergo 5 or 6 molting phases to reach their adult form, which includes growing in size and developing fully-formed and functional wings.
The process begins with the insect growing a new exoskeleton inside the old one. This happens as a result of the body releasing specific hormones, signaling that the existent protective exoskeleton is no longer roomy enough. Once the new exoskeleton is formed, the insect will rupture the old one at the head and emerge from there.
The remaining exoskeleton is empty, colorless, and dry like a useless shell. You will often find these remains hanging from tree branches or in the neighboring vegetation.
The nymph will grow into a full-size adult approximately 20 to 30 days after its birth. By that time, the grasshopper is already 11-12 months old since eggs remain dormant for about 10 months during colder seasons. The adult will generally share the nymph’s appetite and consume a lot of food during its 30-day lifespan.
The adult grasshopper will reach sexual maturity 15 days after the nymph phase and spend the following 15 looking for a partner and multiplying. Although grasshoppers only live as adults for around 30 days, they can leave an unforgettable mark behind them, especially once they turn into locusts.
Do Grasshoppers Have Pupa?
To understand the answer better, keep in mind that there are 2 types of metamorphosis:
- Incomplete metamorphosis – This stage consists of three phases (egg, nymph, and adult). This is the category grasshoppers fall into.
- Complete metamorphosis – It consists of four phases (egg, larva, nymph, and adult). Butterflies tend to undergo complete metamorphosis where the caterpillar is the pupa, and the nymph is the chrysalis, which is the cocoon that will give birth to the adult.
So, no, grasshoppers don’t have a pupa phase.
Grasshoppers are generally seen as pests, undeservedly so if you as me. They only become a problem when getting overcrowded, and this is only an issue with some species of grasshoppers. Researchers have noticed that in some grasshopper populations, the members will begin to rub against each other, which will trigger the swarming behavior.
The swarm will quickly increase as females tend to lay their eggs on the go while looking for food. This will result in numerous other locusts joining the swarm and boosting its capabilities. Massive locust swarms can decimate miles of crops in 24 hours and can travel astounding distances extremely fast.
The regular grasshopper, however, isn’t and shouldn’t be as feared. Although it consumes pretty much the same things as a locust, it doesn’t form swarms, making it a more benign insect.
If you’re interested in grasshoppers and wish to learn more about them, leave a message in the comment section.