Relatively large for the genus, usually dark grayish, brownish, or olive colored with the top half of body darker than below. Pronotum with two wide pale stripes along sides of top (or could be interpretted as very pale on top with a wide dark median stripe), these stripes not obviously extending back along tops of folded tegmina. Hind femur usually with outer face mostly fairly plain of same color as body, but fading to paler near lower edge; with three dark bars crossing upper side; with inner face mostly yellowish (sometimes leaning to orange). Hind tibiae usually bright blue or red (only one or the other in many areas), or occasionally some individuals with other colors such as yellow, orange, green, or purple. Male with furculae present but relatively small; cerci rounded at tip, about even in width except narred a bit in middle.
Melanoplus bivittatus is usually considerably larger and not quite as slender, often more yellowish in hue, with the stripes on top narrower and continuing boldly along the length of the tegmina. It also usually (in the area where the two may be found together) has the hind femur contrastingly striped lengthwise on the upper half of the outer face with a dark "racing stripe". It usually does not have red nor distinctly blue hind tibiae in this region, but more often largely blackish with yellowish or bluish coloring secondary (but it varies and some individuals can have red or blue). Males have large distinctly boot-shaped cerci.
M. foedus is very similar, closely related, and sometimes impossible to distinguish without examining the male aedeagus, but generally in the area where both can be found it is a plainer, yellower, often larger insect of sandy areas. It rarely has other than red hind tibiae. The pronotum rarely has distinctly darker coloring back from the eyes. The top of the pronotum usualy has two pale lateral stripes but the middle is not darkened much. The differences are difficult to describe but easily seen in the live insects and photos. Many published photos of both M. packardii and M. foedus are misidentified as one another.
is a close relative with like external male genitalia (aedeagus is like M. foedus
, but the color pattern is distinctly different. It has a more "average" color pattern for the genus, without distinct pale stripes on top of the pronotum and with distinct blackish dark bars extending back from behind the eyes. It is an insect of mostly riparian woodlands in the Midwest and Great Plains regions. A good photos is on Flickr here
Common and widespread in inland western North America from Canada to near the northern border of Mexico and almost as far east as the Tallgrass Prairies once reached (falling about a couple hundred miles short of the Mississippi).
Varied, but mostly open sunny areas of semi-arid nature, but with plenty of herbaceous plant growth. Roadsides and ditch banks are often favorite habitats.
overwinters as eggs buried in ground, with adults usually from early summer into about September or October or sometimes later.