Saturday, April 7, 2012


I’ve always had a fascination for grasshoppers.  It’s just been in the past couple of years that I’ve really learned anything about them.  I was hesitant to delve into grasshopper identification, because I perceived such a vast number of local species.  The truth is that the possible variations within a species make it seem that there are many species involved.  This is a Northern Green-striped Grasshopper, Chortophaga viridifasciata, a species that produces both green and brown forms.  The occurrence of multiple forms seems to be found in many grasshopper species. 

As a child, I always seemed to have a few pet grasshoppers hidden around the house.  When viewed in hand, grasshoppers always had the most interesting detailed markings and facial expressions.  Add to that the difficulty in catching a grasshopper by hand and you have a creature that made a perfect companion for an active youth.

My interest in grasshoppers actually got me into trouble one spring day when I was in the sixth grade.  My teacher was explaining insect development and was displaying a poster with the standard progression of grasshopper from egg to adult.  She explained that the eggs hatched in the spring and the grasshopper proceeded through its various growth stages until it became a winged adult in the fall.  When I asked why there were winged adults in the school yard right now, which happened to be early April, she told me I was wrong.  A short argument ended with my departing the classroom on the way out of the school to catch an adult grasshopper.  I never made it out of the building, but I did get to share my views on grasshoppers with the Principal and he shared his views on not causing trouble with me.

The fact is that many grasshoppers overwinter as a nymph.  Their transformation to adult is accomplished in early spring.  The Northern Green-striped Grasshopper follows that schedule, so they come into spring in this stage and go through their final molt soon after becoming active.

Warm days full of grasshoppers always remind me of my early life.  I don’t know what species I was catching back then, but I’m sure this was one of them.  It’s nice to be able to put a name to some of my old friends.


  1. Your story about the incident in school is a sad one, and of all too common occurrence. I know teachers are overworked and frustrated by facing, day after day, classrooms full of disrespectful, disinterested, uninterested, unbelieving "students", but to treat a student's personal observation contrary to the textbook dogma as a punishable offense ... A missed teachable moment, at least!

  2. Hi James. On one of my early report cards, a teacher described me as a "hand full". By the time spring arrived, my poor teacher was probably very close to some kind of psychological breakdown. I eventually learned not to enter into a disagreement without having my evidence in hand.

  3. I love the story of your determination to provide physical evidence of your observation! If I'd been your teacher, I probably would have ushered the entire class outside to collect grasshoppers - it might have actually been an interesting study to see how many immature vs. mature individuals could be found at that time of year! Your teacher probably had no idea she was dealing with a budding naturalist extraordinaire!

  4. Hi TGIQ. In my elementary school, outdoors was not considered a proper venue for education and classroom material was limited to books and the occasional film strip.

    When my kids were in elementary school, I volunteered to come in once a week and do a science lesson. We were normally indoors, but when we did natural history lessons, I brought the outdoors in with me. I tried to do things that I would have enjoyed at that age.

    Their fifth grade project was to keep a journal describing their observations of activities in a woodland soil profile. I built a 3 foot square by 2 inches wide terrarium mounted on a wheeled cart. We constructed the soil profile from materials I collected near the school and topped it off with dead leaves and wood chunks. Then the kids searched through a trash bag full of leaf litter and dissected a small log in search of animals to put in the terrarium. The terrarium stayed in the room the entire year and some of the journals were quite impressive. Everyone did more than the required one entry per week.