Other Common Names
Has also been often called "Great Basin Grasshopper", but that name better applies to another species, as this species is probably actually rare or absent from most of the Great Basin.
Synonyms and other taxonomic changes
Oedipoda sparsa Thomas, 1875, described from nw. New Mexico [neotype from Cedar Creek, Montrose County, Colorado]
Circotettix sparsus (Thomas) Scudder, 1876
Trimerotropis azurescens Bruner, 1889, described from Alkali Station, Green River, Wyoming
Circotettix azurescens (Bruner) Caudell, 1902
Trimerotropis perplexa Bruner, 1889, described from Chadron, Nebraska
Circotettix perplexa (Bruner) Scudder, 1900
??? Trimerotropis leucophaea Rentz & Weissman, 1984, from Westgaurd Pass, White Mountains, Inyo County, California.
Explanation of Names
The name T. leucophaea has been given to specimens from mountains in and bordering the Mojave Desert in California. Prior to the naming of T. leucopaea, these were often called T. sparsa, but differ in distribution and in having blue hind tibiae. The difference is weak, and recognition of leucophaea as more than a subspecies of sparsa is perhaps questionable.
Usually rather plain, yet usually with at least hint of irregular, and often highly broken dark cross bands on tegmina (front wings). Hind wings slender, usually bluish with little or no dark band, but in east sometimes greenish or yellowish and sometimes with prominent dark band. Hind tibiae yellow or sometimes somewhat brownish or greenish. Pronotum with median crest low and not obvious on metazona (behind crossing grooves), with "shoulders" not sharp and usually somewhat rounded
T. leucophaea is found further west than T. sparsa, and is probably it's closest relative. It is blue-winged, and differs only in having a porportionately larger head and [?always] blue hind tibiae.
T. sparsa can be confused with T. pseudofasciata, but that species usually has prominent bands across tegmina, has the crest of the front part of pronotum strongly raised and bilobed, often has a tooth at the lower rear corner of the sides of the pronotum, and most often has bluish hind tibiae (yellowish in T. sparsa). T. sparsa occurs mostly east of T. pseudofasciata, but they likely overlap at the east edge of the Great Basin. T. pseudofasciata has a different flight crepitation, which is more of an interrupted buzz or "pulse-buzz", with many more notes or "snaps" included between each interruption (usually only two or perhaps three notes per "pulse" in T. sparsa).
T. gracilis and that listed here as "unnamed species a" are similar, but usually have less dark patterning in the form of small dots often arranged to form a more streaky appearance, more strongly sculptured and angular pronotum, and more often yellow hind wings that are wider. T. gracilis has a prominent dark band on yellow hind wings, the band usually lacking or weak on the usually blue wings of T. sparsa. T. gracilis clicks in flight, producing widely separated single notes (one snap / tick per pulse).
T. cyaneipennis has shorter wider blue (or sometimes green) hind wings, usually with a pronounced dark cross band, and nearly always has blue (sometimes greenish) hind tibiae. T. cyaneipennis is more likely to be found in rugged rocky terrain, but sometimes the two species can be found together. T. cyaneipennis sounds about the same in flight, though perhaps a bit louder and harsher.
T. fratercula is like T. cyaneipennis (almost certainly a geographic color form of the same species), but with yellow wings and hind tibiae usually yellow to greenish, or sometimes bluish or brownish hind tibiae. Compared to T. sparsa, T. fratercula is usually much more strongly patterned, has a strong dark cross band on wider/shorter hind wings. T. fratercula in areas where T. sparsa also has yellow hind wings, and possibly T. fratercula & T. sparsa could be found together, but habitats are distinctly different, with T. fratercula on rocky slopes in broken mountain terrain, and yellow-winged T. sparsa on badlands.
Alberta and North Dakota south to w. Nebraska, nw. New Mexico, and n. Arizona. Primarily a species of the western northern Great Plains, the Wyoming Basin, Colorado Plateaus, and Southern Rocky Mountains. Rare and spotty on patches of badlands of Great Plains near east base of the Rockies from Wyoming to New Mexico (here usually with yellow wings).
Also reported from the Great Basin and Columbia/Snake Plains and Plateaus from s. British Columbia south to s. Nevada and e. California between the Rockies and Cascades/Sierra Nevada. However, records from this more western region are badly intertangled with (and may all really be) what is called "Trimerotropis unnamed species a" here.
Mostly bare eroded areas, particularly on soft fine soils or loose shaley areas in washes, on slopes, and in badland areas. These can be in near desert to openly wooded conditions. Also reported from flat alkali areas in the Great Basin, but those reports are likely all for another similar species.
Overwinters as eggs buried in ground. Adults summer and early autumn.
In an area in southern Idaho, T. sparsa, T. cyaneipennis, T. suffusa, T. gracilis, T. pseudofasciata, and T. "unnamed species a" can all be found relatively near to, or with one another, and the situation can become very confused there. It is also possible that some of these produce occasional hybrids where they meet.
Hagen, A.F., 1982. 'Variations in the Wing Band of Trimerotropis sparsa (Thomas) (Orthoptera)'. Canadian Entomologist, Supplement 9: 1-92
White, M.J.D., 1951. 'Cytological Survey of Wild Populations of [i]Trimerotropis and Circotettis (Orthoptera, Acrididae); II. Racial Differentiation in [i]T. sparsa'. Genetics 36:26-33