Friday bug fans! Once again it’s time for another edition of Friday Flyers. And also this week, we’d like to wish all of you a Merry Christmas. We’ve been hard at work in our store trying to make sure that our special orders are finished on time, and helping our customers choose just the right gifts. For the insect collector on your list (which might even be you!!!), we’ve added some last minute spectacular specimens to our overcrowded shelves---just in time for the Holidays! We’ve had a few snowfalls already, and everyone we see seems to have the Holiday spirit. And even though you can’t see the grass this week, we decided to make today’s topic Grasshoppers. We hope you’ll enjoy it.
Grasshoppers are part of the insect order Orthoptera, along with Katydids and Crickets. (Insect Order is a classification above the Family level.) Grasshoppers are the more widely collected of the group, probably because they are generally more colorful. Right now in our area, Grasshopper eggs are lying dormant in the soil, just about an inch or so beneath the surface. In the Spring, they will hatch and immediately get to work eating, growing, hopping, and starting their next generation. When they are fully grown, they will have wingspans of 2 ½ to 3 inches. The life cycle of the Grasshopper is quite different from most of the other insect families we have featured. For example, butterflies go through a 4-stage life cycle that includes egg, caterpillar, pupa, and adult. This type of development is called Complete Metamorphosis. Butterflies share Complete Metamorphosis with Bees, Beetles, Flies, and a lot of other insect orders. In contrast, Grasshoppers progress through a 3-stage life cycle called Incomplete Metamorphosis. This includes egg, nymph, and adult. A Grasshopper nymph is a miniature copy of the adult that has not yet developed reproductive capabilities, or wings. But unlike their Complete Metamorphosis relatives, Grasshoppers eat and digest the same food throughout their entire lives, and their bodies do not transform or change functions as radically. Unlike their tropical cousins, adult temperate grasshoppers die when the weather gets too cold. In the tropics, the adults live longer and therefore grow to be larger in size. Some develop wingspans of over 8 inches!!! Even so, the general principle still applies; adults do not live long enough to see their offspring become adults.
Grasshoppers actually do eat some types of grass, along with a variety of other plants. They are not necessarily picky. In extreme conditions in some parts of the world, Grasshoppers can become very severe pests, devouring crops, and in some cases amassing in swarms that can strip all the vegetation clean. This phenomenon is somewhat cyclical, and depends on the amount of rainfall that keeps the food plants growing, and on the abundance of their predators. Grasshoppers have developed somewhat effective deterrents to being eaten. Many Grasshoppers have “spikes” on their legs that they can use to scratch and cut their predators. Most Grasshoppers when held will regurgitate partially digested food in the form of a sticky brown smelly liquid that most predators find distasteful. But there are plenty of successful predators that usually keep the Grasshopper populations from exploding into harmful pests.
Most adult Grasshoppers have colorful wings, and some have colorful bodies as well. Some species vary significantly in coloration so that they can blend in with their surroundings, while some of the more poisonous species are brightly colored as a warning to predators. All in all, Grasshoppers are an interesting family for collectors. They’re less fragile than butterflies, and with a skilled hand in processing them, the finished product can be truly spectacular!!! Notice that we didn’t even mention chocolate covered Grasshoppers. Oh! Sorry! Well anyway, despite some people eating them, we think it’s a waste of a good Grasshopper. And it’s definitely a waste of chocolate!!!
So that’s our Grasshopper story. We always have some spectacular Grasshoppers in our Wonders Of Nature department. We have several beautifully framed and matted Grasshoppers pictured along with this week’s edition of Friday Flyers. One of them even has Red and Green Christmas colors!!! So “Deck the halls with lots of bugs”!!!
We’ve met so many nice people through our Wonders Of Nature department, and many of you have become good friends. We hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Friday Flyers. We love sharing our interest in butterflies and insects with you. Please enjoy the photos we have posted with this week’s edition, and be sure to see all the previous pictures in our Friday Flyers album. Remember to “like” our Wonders Of Nature page, and be sure to pass it along to all your Facebook Friends. We hope you’ll visit our Wonders Of Nature department soon, and we look forward to seeing you.