The Carolina Grasshopper, Dissosteira
, has always been one of my
favorites. That’s partially because it’s
such a large, showy insect. The other
reason is the fact that it can be found just about anywhere in the contiguous 48
United States. My family moved
frequently when I was young, but no matter where we went, I could always find
this grasshopper. carolina
Its coloration allows it to blend into just about any substrate. The camouflage is so effective that the grasshopper is usually not noticed until it takes wing. The flashy wings, black with a yellow border, are impossible to miss as the grasshopper flits through the air. Their disappearance as the grasshopper touches ground is reminiscent of a fine magic act.
Not only is this a common grasshopper, its preferred habitat is identical to that frequented by young boys. Although it eats a wide variety of plants, the grasshopper tends to congregate in areas of bare ground. It’s commonly found on school playgrounds, baseball diamonds, dirt roads, gravel driveways, concrete slabs and other similar conditions. It didn’t make any difference if I was in an urban or a rural setting, these grasshoppers were always there.
The species seems to have a well defined personal space. As I slowly neared that limit, the grasshopper would shift its body slightly and show more attention in my direction. This one seemed to be using its antennae to send me a semaphore signal. It began with both antennae up.
Then it would alternately drop and raise a single antenna. First one would go down and then back up.
As one antenna returned to the upright position, the other would drop and lift.
Finally, both antennae dropped in unison and then rose. I can’t be sure that the activity had anything to do with my presence, but the grasshopper jumped as soon as I began to move the camera closer. I can’t see these guys without being reminded of my childhood.