Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Melanoplus femurrubrum (De Geer 1773)
Acrydium femur-rubrum De Geer, 1773. Described from Pennsylvania
Gryllus (Locusta) femur-rubrum (De Geer) Goeze, 1778
Gryllus (Locusta) erythropus Gmelin, 1788
Acrydium femorale Olivier, 1791
Caloptenus femur-rubrum H. Burmeister, 1838
Acridium (Caloptenus) femur-rubrum (De Geer) Haan, 1842
Caloptenus repletus Walker 1870. Described from North America
Pezotettix (Melanoplus) femur-rubrum (De Geer) Stål, 1873
Melanoplus femur-rubrum (De Geer) S.H. Scudder, 1874
Caloptenus devorator Scudder, 1875. Described from Dallas, Dallas County, Texas
Caloptenus sanguinolentus Provancher, 1876. Described from Cape Rouge, Quebec
Caloptenus plumbum Dodge, 1877. Described from Glencoe, Nebraska [Name given to "plumbeus" blue and yellow form.]
Melanoplus interior Scudder, 1878. Described from Salt Lake City, Utah
Caloptenus (Melanoplus) femur-rubrum (De Geer) Caulfield, 1887
Melanoplus plumbeus (Dodge) L. Bruner, 1893
Melanoplus propinquus S.H. Scudder, 1897. Described from Fort Reed, Orange County, Florida
Melanoplus coloradus Caudell, 1903. Described from Pallisade, Colorado
Melanoplus femur-rubrum propinquus (Scudder) Hebard, 1916
Explanation of Names
Specimens from the southeast coastal plain from roughly North Carolina to Louisiana (including all of Florida) are often called "Melanoplus propinquus". This name has been considered as a regional subspecies of M. femurrubrum, as nothing more than a synonym, and even as a distinct species. Here it is not ditinguished, as there is no way to identify it as something distinct, and there is no way to geographically draw a line as to where one name should start and the other end.
Similarly, the name M. plumbeus has on occasion been treated as a subspecies or distinct species, but it cannot be distinguished as anything more than a striking blue and yellow color form. This form is most often met with eastward from the Southern Rockies on the Great Plains, where it tends to be most often encountered in dry barren natural environments.
Several species look quite similar, and this one is best identified by referring to photos posted here and looking at the end of the male's abdomen, which is enlarged, and with the subgenital plate "U"-shaped along the top edge when viewed from behind. The furculae are well-developed (slender, pointed, roughly half or more the length of the supra-anal plate), and the cerci are relatively wide, tapering, blunt. The outer face of the hind femur usually has a plain to even herringbone pattern without additional cross banding(though there may be indications of one or two partial pale diagonal cross-bands) and the color tends to be olivaceous. The hind tibiae are red except in rare individuals of the blue & yellow form, which may have purplish or blue hind tibiae. The wings are fully developed, but occasionally do not extend past the tips of the hind femora (usually they do), and in most regions the tegmina (front wings) are rather plain without much obvious patterning (sometimes there are dark and light spots along the middle, and sometimes the angle (as when folded) is somewhat pale. Usually the underside is yellow, and often the sides of the face and thorax are somewhat greenish or yellowish. Usually the overall coloring obove is grayish, but coloration varies greatly and some individuals are strikingly yellowish, orange, pink, purplish, or even blue, while some may have a more broken or spotted pattern than usual.
Nymphs are difficult to identify in this genus. In this species they vary greatly in the coloration (green, yellow, orange, brown), and in the development of the dark blackish markings (which in the extreme may be entirely missing or expand to make nearly the whole insect black). However, the hind femur is normally mostly light, but with most of the upper half of the outer face blackish, with no complete cross bands dissecting it. The curved dark and light paired bands on the upper side of the pronotum curve noticeably down toward the front (on dark individuals only the pale may be noticeable and on pale individuals only the dark). These same bands are distinctly closer together in the middle when viewed from above. The developing triangular hind wing pads are often mostly dark with the top edge pale, and there is usually a dark bar extending down from the eye. Most similar in pattern are nymphs of M. bivittatus, but they have the dark bands on the upper sides of the pronotum nearly parallel when viewed from above, not so curved when viewed from the side, and the nymphs are nearly twice as big at the same stage of grown. In all species, the males nymphs can be identified in the last two instars by similarity in shape of the parts at the ends of the abdomen to those of the adults.
It should be noted that for this species, some of the photos posted are "best guesses". Most are almost certainly correctly identified, but there remains a chance that some really belong to other "look-alike" species. Mature males, where the end of the abdomen shows, will definitely all be correct, but females and nymphs are much more difficult.
Most of North America from coast to coast. Absent only from the Arctic and some areas that are too dry or too high in elevation.
Varied habitats, mostly open, sunny, with mixed herbaceous growth.
Will eat a wide range of plants, but mostly Dicot herbaceous species are consumed. Sometimes abundant enough to become a garden or crop pest.
The "plumbeus" color form is most often found feeding on herbaceus or shrubby yellow-flowering native Composites in dry environments.
Overwinters as eggs laid in soil, which hatch in spring. Adults from late spring or summer until frost.
In much of North America, especially across the northern half of the US and in southern Canada, this is one of the most commonly encountered species of Grasshoppers.
- Migratory Grasshopper--these two species exceptionally difficult to separate in photographs