First Grasshopperlets of Spring

Back on September 12, Julia was transplanting some strawberry plants when she came across this cluster of 5-mm eggs in the soil:

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I was pretty sure they were grasshopper eggs, but I figured we might as well find out what kind. So I scooped the soil into a little jar, which I put in the fridge on November 1 and took back out on March 1, along with 30 or so similar jars containing overwintering immature insects. I opened each jar and put it in a separate resealable plastic bag, and I arranged all of these bagged jars in the corner of the bedroom, out of direct sunlight.

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Two days ago, I woke up well before sunrise and heard what sounded like an insect flitting around inside one of the bags. I thought maybe a sawfly had emerged, since that’s what was in many of the jars. I fell back asleep, and in the morning Julia and I were surprised to see a bag full of little (6 mm) grasshoppers.

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The freshly hatched ones were pale:

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But the ones that had been out for a few hours had developed some dark stripes and spots:

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By the end of the day, 40 had emerged. Number 41 appeared today.

I’m guessing these are some sort of Melanoplus. It would be great if someone out there can confirm that—I’m not sure how motivated I am to spend a few months raising grasshoppers from first instars to adults. If I’m right, the adults will look something like this:

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…But not exactly like that, since Melanoplus bivittatus bivittatus doesn’t occur in New England (M. bivittatus femoratus is common here, but I don’t have a good picture of it).

And speaking of things that don’t occur in New England, is it wishful thinking or do these mystery pine needle bananas from California seem like they could be grasshopper eggs?

About Charley Eiseman

I am a freelance naturalist, endlessly fascinated by the interconnections of all the living and nonliving things around me. I am the lead author of Tracks & Sign of Insects and Other Invertebrates (Stackpole Books, 2010), and continue to collect photographs and information on this subject. These days I am especially drawn to galls, leaf mines, and other plant-insect interactions.
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5 Responses to First Grasshopperlets of Spring

  1. Hillechien says:

    Love your explanations and pictures

  2. Absolutely wonderful photos of these babies. I hope someone knows which species they are – I’m really curious!

  3. Sarah Wilson says:

    Thanks! Posted in the “Hopper Farming” Facebook group. 🙂

  4. Mark Sturtevant says:

    Very nice. I have realized that baby grasshoppers are squee, and so I will try my hand at getting pictures of them.

  5. Pingback: Bug Rearing 101 | BugTracks

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