Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Carolina Grasshopper

The Carolina Grasshopper, Dissosteira carolina, 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.

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.


  1. Hi Steve -- This grasshopper is also widely distributed in non-Arctic Canada, where it is sometimes, and rather more descriptively, named the "black-winged grasshopper".
    Informative article for those who just have to know more than the 1000's of words about them that your lovely pictures convey (paid for by your tax dollars):

  2. Hi James. Black-winged describes these guys well. This is one of those creatures that is easier to identify on the wing than on the ground.