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dead grasshoppers - Melanoplus differentialis - male

dead grasshoppers - Melanoplus differentialis - Male
Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, Fulton County, Illinois, USA
August 19, 2008
Size: 1 1/2 inch
This is an unusual request. I normally agree with the Bugguide policy of not posting dead insects. However, this is not an ID request but a behavior request. In a grassy area near a marsh, I found thousands of grasshoppers of at least 5 species, a mass takeover of the habitat. Every step sent scores leaping from my path. But then I noticed that there were hundreds of dead grasshoppers on the grass stems of various ages, some freshly dead, others old and rotting. They all held the grass stems with tight "death grips" that usually enclosed several stems. All died in an upright position. Can anyone explain this mass die off? The third picture has what looks like some kind of fungus growing on the feet of the corpse. I don't know if that is what killed it or if it came later. Is this due to overpopulation or some sort of contamination? Any information would be helpful.

Melanoplus differentialis
is the Grasshopper ID, in case you needed that too. 8)

Pathogenic fungus
These are victims of "summit disease," caused by a fungus that compels them to climb up plants and clasp them as they die, so that the fungal spores have a better chance of dispersing. We are collecting images of this phenomenon here.

That is amazing.
I've known of fungus attacking ants but didn't know that it went for a variety of species. I've found fungus growing from buried pupae of moths (in upper New York State) but never anything like this. Thanks very much for the info. Do you want to transfer these pictures to the fungus article?

Pathogenic fungi
Seems like just about every kind of bug has its own fungus. The one growing from moth pupae was probably a Cordyceps, like the ant fungus. Entomophaga grylli is the species complex attacking grasshoppers--the individual species may be fairly host-specific. I'll add thumbnails of your images to the article, and the pictures themselves can be moved to the grasshopper section.

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