Other Common Names
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Gryllus bivittatus Say, 1825, described from Arkansas River, near Rocky Mountains, Colorado
Melanoplus bivittatus (Say) Morse, 1894
Caloptenus bivittatus (Say) Scudder, 1902
Caloptenus femoratus Burmeister, 1838, described from Carolina
Melanoplus femoratus (Burmeister) Scudder, 1878
Melanoplus bivittatus ssp. femoratus (Burmeister) Morse, 1894
Acridium flavovittatum Harris, 1841, described from Massachusetts
Caloptenus flavovittatus (Harris) Walker, F., 1870
Melanoplus flavovittatus (Harris) Scudder, 1874
Acridium milberti Serville, 1839, from northern America
Melanoplus milberti (Serville) Scudder, 1897
Heteracris rejecta Walker, 1870, no type locality
Heteracris vittipes Walker, 1870, no type locality
Explanation of Names
Melanoplus femoratus was apparently differentiated based on red hind tibiae. This in itself is not a significant distinction (see under "Remarks" below). However, some authors have considered it as a distinct subspecies or species, and specimens from east of the Midwest and north of the prairies do look distinctly different.
Relatively large, smooth, usually yellowish and brown (sometimes greenish or blackish) with two distinct pale yellowish stripes along sides of top. Male with cerci roughly boot-shaped.
Melanoplus thomasi in the southwest is very closely related and similar in appearance. It is usually bright blue-green (always at least greenish or bluish) with brilliant red inner hind femur and hind tibiae. Where the two species come near to one another M. bivittatus never shows this coloration, and in a few places where they are known to meet, they seem to remain distinct.
Coast to coast across southern Canada and most of the US except Florida, south Atlantic and Gulf coastal plain, and southwestern arid regions. Perhaps into northernmost Sonora and Chihuahua, Mexico.
The two subspecies (as recognized here) meet and often intergrade primarily through Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota and north into Canada near the east border of Manitoba. The boundary then turns westward roughly along the northern edge of the Canadian Prairies to the Rockies in Alberta, and from there on westward it runs near the international border across southern British Columbia, where it turns back southward along the east base of the Cascades.
Varies with region, but usually relatively sunny, moist, lush, weedy or meadowy areas. Meadows, prairies, crop fields, road sides, vacant lots, ditch and stream sides, vegetable gardens, etc..
Wide variety of mostly herbaceous Dicots, but will often also eat herbaceous Monots, leaves of woody plants, will scavenge dead animal matter, etc.
Overwinters as eggs laid mostly in ground, but sometimes in manure, rotting wood, holes in rocks, etc. Adults in late spring usually live until frost if not eaten or killed by disease. Often color darkens noticeably as cool autumn weather sets in.
This is a very common and sometimes destructive species. Its liking of urban habitats, plus bold patterning and large size, tend to get it noticed more than most grasshopper species.
There are often two subspecies recognized, which because they look somewhat different, have caused some confusion in conflicting descriptions for this species. These two types intergrade where they come in contact, but mostly displace each other geographically.
Those often called subspecies femoratus come from generally moister and often cooler regions; found in eastern mountains, the northeast U.S., across Canada (north of the more arid Plains sections), in the Northwest of the U.S. and in British Columbia, and south into California. This primarily northern subspecies nearly always has red hind tibiae and usually lacks the bold dark "racing" stripe along the upper outer face of the hind femur, the stripe typically replaced by a less contrasting herringbone pattern. The overall coloration is rather different as well, dark parts of the pattern are often less developed, but sometimes black lines on the pronotum are actually more contrasting. Green individuals are common.
Typical bivittatus is found in drier interior regions. This type has varied hind tibia coloration; buff, yellow, greenish, bluish, purple, brown, black, or combinations of these, but only rarely red (and then mostly up in Mountain areas). Otherwise, the coloration is less varied, and usually dominated by shades of buffy or yellowish brown. Green adults are almost never seen.