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Family Acrididae - Short-horned Grasshoppers

Plains Lubber Grasshopper - Brachystola magna - female Melanoplus aridus male appendage - Melanoplus aridus - male un-ID grasshopper - Booneacris glacialis - male Grasshopper nymph - Melanoplus Snakeweed Grasshopper - Hesperotettix viridis Longhorn Band-wing Grasshopper - Psinidia fenestralis - female Melanoplus bivittatus ? - Melanoplus bivittatus - female Southern Green-striped grasshopper - Chortophaga viridifasciata
Kingdom Animalia (Animals)
Phylum Arthropoda (Arthropods)
Subphylum Hexapoda (Hexapods)
Class Insecta (Insects)
Order Orthoptera (Grasshoppers, Crickets, Katydids)
Suborder Caelifera (Grasshoppers)
Family Acrididae (Short-horned Grasshoppers)
Other Common Names
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Explanation of Names
Author of family is MacLeay, 1819 (or 1821?). From Greek akris (ακρις)- "locust", using the genitive form akridos (ακριδος) (1).
Arnett (2) lists 5 subfamilies, 117 genera, and 620 species for North America, of which 239 species are in the genus Melanoplus.
Worldwide, there are about 8,000 species (3).
9-80 mm, most 15-30 mm
Medium to large orthoptera, familiar due to their diurnal habits, typically open habitat, and propensity to jump. Some species are quite colorful. Characteristics of Acrididae:
pronotum does not extend beyond base of wings
wings usually well-developed, but short (brachypterous) or absent (apterous) in some species, and wing length may be variable within a single species
antennae short, typically about one-half body length, with less than 30 segments
tympana (hearing organs), if present, are on the sides of the first abdominal segment
hind femora greatly enlarged (for jumping), typically about as long as hind wings
ovipositor short and stout
all tarsi have three segments (tarsal formula 3-3-3)

The six subfamilies used by Orthoptera Species File Online are below, with some representative images. These have been arranged so that allied and/or similar-appearing subfamilies are adjacent, but there are many taxonomic issues in this group.
Acridinae - Silent Slantfaced Grasshoppers

Gomphocerinae - Slant-faced Grasshoppers


Cyrtacanthacridinae - Migratory Bird Locusts

Melanoplinae - Spur-throated Grasshoppers

Oedipodinae - Band-winged Grasshoppers
All of North America
Most species in grasslands, but some in forests, tundra, aquatic vegetation.
Spring-fall in temperate areas, some species present all year in southern regions
Typically eat foliage of forbs, grasses. Some species take a variety of plants, while others are restricted to a few species of closely related plants. They often take dry plant matter from the ground as well, and most will scavenge weak or dead grasshoppers when plant food is scarce.
Life Cycle
Some species have fairly elaborate courtship. Mating itself may take up to one hour, and male may ride on back of female for a period of a day or more, a behavior known as mate guarding. Females oviposit in loose soil (typically), among plant roots, in rotting wood, or even in dung. Clutches consist of 10-60 eggs, and females may lay up to 25 clutches over several weeks. Oviposition typically occurs in late summer, and the egg (as a developing embryo) overwinters. Eggs then hatch in spring. Life cycle is typically one year. A few species overwinter as juveniles (nymphs).
The notorious migratory locust (Schistocerca gregaria) of the Old World, recorded in literature since ancient times, is a member of this family. North American species of Schistocerca do not form damaging swarms.
The extinct Rocky Mountain locust, Melanoplus spretus, was a swarming "locust" of western North America (3).
See Also
Romaleidae - Lubber Grasshoppers
Tetrigidae - Pygmy Grasshoppers
Print References
The Century Dictionary--entries for Acridiidae, Acridium, Acris (1)
Arnett, pp. 169-177 (2)
Bland, pp. 69-123 (3)
Castner, p. 64 (4)
Bland, pp. 94-96, fig. 88 (5)
Works Cited
1.The Century Dictionary: an encyclopedic lexicon of the English language
2.American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico
Ross H. Arnett. 2000. CRC Press.
3.Orthoptera of Michigan
Roger Bland. 2003. Michigan State University Exttension.
4.Photographic Atlas of Entomology and Guide To Insect Identification
James L. Castner. 2000. Feline Press.
5.How to Know the Insects
Roger G. Bland, H.E. Jaques. 1978. WCB/McGraw-Hill.