Grasshoppers are elongated insects that live in all parts of the world, but their favorite habitats are meadows, forests, crops and drylands. Although they adapt to virtually any environment, they have a preference for warm areas. They are mostly diurnal animals that enjoy the sun, although depending on the temperature they can also be active at night. Their life expectancy is between 2 and 3 months.
There are about 10,000 different species of grasshoppers, but they all share almost the same characteristics. The major difference between species is their size, which can range from less than 1 cm to 15 cm in length, with females usually larger than males. Their color can vary between green, brown, black, yellowish or spotted, but they are always dull and inconspicuous. Their colors allow them to camouflage themselves perfectly in nature to hide from predators.
Most grasshoppers are herbivores so they feed on plants and nuts, but mostly on grass. They may also include pollen and nectar in their diet. However, what grasshoppers eat may vary from species to species, as some (few and usually only in case of need) may have an omnivorous diet and include insects in their diet.
Although grasshoppers’ diet is mainly based on grass, they can eat other foods such as flowers, stems, seeds, cereals, fruits and vegetables. You can offer them lettuce, spinach, chard, shredded carrots, tomatoes, strawberries, melons….
These animals have a big appetite and spend most of their time eating. They can consume up to 16 times their own weight. That’s why they can be a huge problem when they inhabit crop fields. In fact, they are considered one of the worst pests in agriculture as they can wipe out entire fields of crops.
How do grasshoppers eat?
Grasshopper antennae have taste buds that they use to taste food before eating it. In this way, they select what they are interested in and discard what they are not interested in, keeping the freshest and highest quality food. They are quite picky eaters. Once this is done, they thoroughly grind the food with their jaws, creating a kind of mush to be able to digest it better and swallow it. Now you know what grasshoppers eat, but… can you tell one species from another?
Types of grasshoppers
- Green grasshoppers. Bright green with a brown line starting at the head and extending to the hind wings. The wings are transparent.
- Giant grasshoppers. Known as locusts. They are brown and, although they have wings, they do not fly much.
- Long-headed grasshopper. Green in color, with brown strips on the head and pinkish red abdomen.
- Brook grasshopper. Bright green, with brown head and black stripes on the sides of the body. It swims on the surface of the water.
- Stem hoppers and bark mimics. Branch or stem color.
- Southeastern grasshoppers. As nymphs they are black with yellow stripes, with red legs and sides of the head; as adults they are yellow with black spots, with yellow wings in front and reddish wings behind. Although they have wings, they cannot fly, they move by walking and making small jumps.
- White-antenna grasshopper. Reddish brown with orange-red wings and legs and white antennae.
Did you know what grasshoppers eat? Have you ever fed one? Tell us your experience!