Monday, September 9, 2013


Red-legged Grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum)

Going for a walk in the long grass yesterday, every step I took, a couple of these fellows jumped out of my way. Usually they are quite hard to photograph but this lady obliged me while she was sunning herself on a log. You can tell she is female by the tapered abdomen and the tips of her ovipositor. A male has a rounded tail. Perhaps she didn't mind me taking her picture because she was partially blind. Her left compound eye looks quite deformed.

When reviewing the photographs at home, I was amazed at how completely covered in fine hairs she is. These insect hairs are called setae. Even her well armoured head and thorax are covered in fine hairs. These setae provide the sense of touch to the insect even though she is covered in a chitinous exoskeleton.

I find the mouthes of insects to be their strangest parts. I rarely am able to get a good look at what is going on down there. The antenna like palps around the mouth of this grasshopper have the greatest "ick factor" for me. I'm used to antennas; they sort of make sense as great big external nostrils, but four extra external tongues for tasting and manipulating food is four too many.

As I walked along I saw a couple of grasshoppers almost fall prey to a banded argiope. Unfortunately for the spider I spooked him and he broke off wrapping up his meal and went back to guard the center of his web. This allowed the grasshoppers time to disentangle themselves and make their escape. Below are a couple of other predators of grasshoppers: the only black and yellow garden spider I've seen all year and a great black wasp. The light reflecting off the wings of the great-black wasp was much bluer in person.

Black and Yellow Garden Spider(Argiope Aurantia)

Great Black Wasp(Sphex pensylvanicus)