In summer they hop happily in the grass and delight with their loud chirping. Grasshoppers are real acrobats in the insect kingdom. But can these insects fly? We investigate this question.
To the point
- More than 20 grasshopper species and around 100 other grasshopper species live in Central Europe.
- Most of them have wings, but are in fact unable to fly.
- The grasshoppers use their wings to help them jump
- The ability to fly varies not only from species to species, but also from specimen to specimen
Great diversity of species in Central Europe
These insects are conspicuous by their long hind legs, which are used for hopping and making music. From June and until October, the little animals can be seen in meadows, along roadsides, and some can even be seen in wetlands. Biologically, grasshoppers (Gomphocerinae) belong to the field grasshopper family (Acrididae) and the species-rich order grasshoppers (Orthoptera). In Central Europe alone, more than 25 species jump and make music, including:
- Common grasshopper
- Field grasshopper
- Nightingale grasshopper.
- Lesser heath grasshopper
- Great golden grasshopper
- Unrecognized grasshopper
- Red club cricket
- and many others
Do all grasshoppers have wings?
Nearly all native grasshopper species are winged. Typical grasshopper wings consist of two pairs – the upper wings and the hind wings. The upper wings are relatively hard and semitransparent. On the one hand, the coverwings serve to protect the soft hindwings. On the other hand, some insects use their upper wings as a musical instrument in addition to their thighs. The hind wings, on the other hand, are almost transparent, finely veined, and lie folded under the cover wings. This pair of wings is longer than the top wings and assists grasshoppers in jumping.
Did you know that the more migratory grasshoppers that join together to form a swarm, the stronger their wing pairs become? The insects’ touch stimulates the release of growth hormones. Our European grasshoppers, unlike some conspecifics, do not rot together and do not cause plagues.
Do they prefer to fly or hop?
Although most of these little animals are equipped with wings, the insects are more in their element when hopping. Not only do they always prefer hopping as a method of locomotion, but they are actually flightless.
Interestingly, with one leap, a native grasshopper species can cover distances of about 2 meters.
When hopping from one blade of grass to another, the hoppers sometimes spread their wings. This happens when the distance is relatively long. Their spread, rapidly fluttering wings serve as additional propulsion, helping with balancing and steering. But the power of the hind legs is indispensable when jumping. Wing movements alone will barely keep any of these insects moving forward and in the air.
Flight art varies within a species
Wing size and power not only vary among species in grasshoppers, but are even individual. Differences in morphology, or the appearance of individual body regions, are also noticeable between populations. In addition to a flightless grasshopper family, a large-winged – macropterous – population may live. However, even these animals will not be able to fly any significant distances. Hopping remains the mode of locomotion of choice for all grasshopper species.
Common grasshopper predominantly flightless
We would like to introduce this handsome green grasshopper as representative of the native grasshopper species. Chorthippus parallelus, the Latin name of the common grasshopper, is probably the one we encounter most often. This insect belongs to the species that use their blanket wings to make music. They run the saw comb on the inside of their hind legs along the edges of their coverts, producing a shrill, vibrating sound.
Note: The higher the ambient temperature, the more rapid the tempo of the chirping.
Winged are females and males; males are smaller and have more powerful pairs of wings. The more macropterous populations are comparatively good flyers, the more brachypterous specimens have only stubs instead of hind wings. The insect cannot count on the help of these pairs of wings during its jump.
Frequently asked questions
How high is a grasshopper jump?
The insects are long jumpers rather than high jumpers. None of them can jump more than 1 meter high.
What to do if a grasshopper has gotten into the house?
An insect could get into the house by a clumsy flying jump or with clothing. Insects can hardly find their way out on their own. Offer the little animal your hand or a napkin as a means of transportation and put it outside. Please do not release it to freedom from one of the upper floors. Such a flight may end fatally for the insect.
Which grasshopper is green and wingless?
It could possibly be the southern oak cricket, a relative of our hoppers.