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Family Acrididae - Short-horned Grasshoppers

Melanoplus dawsoni - male What kind of grasshopper is this? - Schistocerca Short-winged green grasshopper - Dichromorpha viridis - male American bird grasshopper - Schistocerca americana Grasshopper - Camnula pellucida - male grasshopper Arkansas grasshopper #2 - Melanoplus - female ovipositing pine tree spur-throat grasshopper - Melanoplus punctulatus - female
Classification
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
Grasshoppers
Explanation of Names
Acrididae MacLeay 1821
Numbers
5 subfamilies, 117 genera, and 620 spp. in North America (~240 spp. in Melanoplus)(1); ~8,000 species worldwide(2)
Size
9-80 mm, most 15-30 mm
Identification
Medium to large, diurnal, typically in open habitat. Some are quite colorful.
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
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
Range
worldwide
Habitat
Most species in grasslands, but some in forests, tundra, aquatic vegetation.
Season
Spring-fall in temperate areas, some species present all year in southern regions
Food
Typically, 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).
Remarks
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 (2).
Works Cited
1.American Insects: A Handbook of the Insects of America North of Mexico
Ross H. Arnett. 2000. CRC Press.
2.Orthoptera of Michigan
Roger Bland. 2003. Michigan State University Extension.