Differential grasshopper

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Differential grasshopper
Grasshopper at MGSP.jpg
Differential grasshoppers copulating
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Orthoptera
Family: Acrididae
Subfamily: Melanoplinae
Genus: Melanoplus
Species: M. differentialis
Binomial name
Melanoplus differentialis
(Thomas, 1865)[1]
  • M. d. differentialis (Thomas, 1865)
  • M. d. nigricans Cockerell, 1917

The differential grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis) is a species of grasshopper belonging to the genus Melanoplus found throughout northern Mexico, central United States[2] and southern Ontario, Canada.[3] It is considered a pest in most of its range.[2]


M. d. differentialis juvenile (4th or 5th stage), Ottawa, Ontario

Adult males grow to 28–37 mm and females grow to 34–50 mm. They are brownish or greenish and as they age the color will darken. Some nymphs can be bright yellow. There are black grooves on the pronotum. The male has bootlike appendages at the end of its abdominal tip.[4] There are inverted chevrons along the hind femur and the hind part the tibia is yellowish with black spikes. All of the adults tarsi are yellow along with its antennae, which in some cases are reddish yellow.[5]

Range and habitat[edit]

Found throughout most of the United States except for the east coast and northwest.[6] Within its range the M. differentialis is most often found in heavily weeded areas and grasslands, they can even be spotted in vacant lots and other urban areas.[7] This species is not migratory but can travel within a few miles to search for food.

Life cycle[edit]

Differential Grasshopper seen in Arlington, Texas, USA.

An adult female lays up to 6 egg masses in soft soil, each of which can contain 40–200 eggs. The eggs begin embryonic development the summer they are laid, then enter diapause for the winter, to hatch over period of about two weeks in early summer of the next year. There is one generation per year. The nymphs take about 32 days from hatching to reach adulthood. Their development is well synchronized, and most nymphs transform to winged adults during a period of just a few days.[8] Differential grasshoppers are polyphagous, eating both grasses and forbs, but experiments have shown that they grow faster if fed forbs. The most favored food plants tend to be Giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida), Common sunflower (Helianthus annuus), Prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola). Adults can detect a chemical change in wilted lettuce and sunflowers and will tend to avoid these plants.

Agricultural problems[edit]

The young feed on various grains, alfalfa and hay crops, while the adults attack the corn, cotton and deciduous fruit crops. A single swarm can destroy a young crop in a few days. Because this species tends to feed in large swarms, it is a serious threat to farming in most of its range. In the northern part of the range it is about as numerous as the Two-striped grasshopper (Melanoplus bivittatus) but it strongly outnumbers the Two-striped grasshopper in its southern range.[9]


  1. ^ "ITIS Standard Report Page: Melanoplus differentialis". Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  2. ^ a b Grasshoppers
  3. ^ Orthoptera, Ojibway Nature Centre
  4. ^ Evans, Arthur V. (2007). "Grasshopper, Crickets, and Katydids: Order Orthoptera". Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-4027-4153-1. 
  5. ^ Knopf, Milne & Milne (1986). "Grasshopper and Crickets". National Audubon Society Field Guide to North America Insects & Spiders. Alfred A. Knopf , Inc. p. 421. ISBN 0-394-50763-0. 
  6. ^ "Species Melanoplus differentialis - Differential Grasshopper - BugGuide.Net". Retrieved 2009-02-04. 
  7. ^ Kaufman, Kenn; Eaton, Eric R. (2007). "Grasshoppers". Kaufman Field Guide to Insects of North America. Houghton Mifflin Books. pp. 74–75. ISBN 978-0-618-15310-7. 
  8. ^ "Melanoplus differentialis fact sheet". Grasshoppers: Their Biology, Identification, and Management. USDA. Retrieved 7 July 2015. 
  9. ^ "Melanoplus differentialis fact sheet". Retrieved 2009-02-04. 

External links[edit]