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Spur Throated Grasshopper

Spur Throated Grasshopper, (Melanoplinae),as the common name suggests, bear a spur or spine the prosternal spine ventrally between the front legs. The antennae usually are threadlike, not flattened or sword shaped. The head is not especially large, and these grasshoppers do not appear to be especially heavy bodied. In most general, the head has a vertical orientation, but in some groups the face is slanted.

Spur Throated Grasshopper

Spur Throated Grasshopper

These grasshoppers may be wingless, or may bear short or long wings. The forewings tegmina are pigmented, but lack the transverse bands common in the bandwinged grasshoppers, subfamily Oedipodinae. The hindwings are not pigmented. The flying ability of spurthroated grasshoppers varies greatly, even within a single genus. The genus Schistocerca contains especially long-winged, strong fliers. They are sometimes called bird grasshoppers in recognition of their large size and strong flying abilities.

This is a small, short-winged species. The forewings are shorter than the pronotum, and elongate-oval. The forewings are widely separated dorsally. The general color is reddish brown or purplish gray above, and yellowish below. The males have behind the eye a shiny black stripe that extends across the pronotum to the first abdominal segments, but this pattern is indistinct in females. This black stripe is very wide on the anterior portion of the pronotum, narrowing markedly on the posterior region of the pronotum.

The hind femora are dull yellow, sometimes with black spots but not complete bands. The hind tibiae are purplish green. The males measure 12.5.15 mm, the females 17.21 mm. In males, the furcula is very short. The dorsal edge of the cerci is depressed toward the midpoint of the cerci, with the tip expanded slightly, bluntly rounded, and flattened. The subgenital plate is only weakly elongated.

Life Cycle: Nymphs develop and grow during late spring and early summer when weather is usually warm and food plants are green and abundant. Under these favorable conditions the young grasshoppers develop through the nymphal stage in 27 to 34 days. Of six common species inhabiting Montana mixedgrass prairie Ageneotettix deorum, Amphitornus coloradus, Aulocara elliotti, Melanoplus infantilis, Melanoplus packardii, and Melanoplus sanguinipes. The little spurthroated grass-hopper developed most rapidly.

Adults remain in the same habitat in which they develop as nymphs. There they feed, mature, mate, and reproduce. No special study has been made of their courtship or reproduction. Four observations of pairs in copulation have been made between the hours of 8 am and 11am. One pair, which was first observed at 10 a.m., disengaged after 20 minutes. In the northern mixedgrass prairie the adults are present from mid July to mid September or mid October, a period of 60 to 90 days. Longevity of individual adults is much less, however, ranging from 15 to 22 days on the mixedgrass prairie of Montana.

Hatching The spurthroated grasshopper is an intermediate hatching species appearing two to three weeks after the bigheaded grasshopper. In the northern mixedgrass prairie the eggs may hatch from late May to mid June.

Spur Throated Grasshopper

Spur Throated Grasshopper

Food: The spurthroated grasshopper feeds on both grasses and forbs. No primary host has been revealed from three studies that have examined crop contents. Rather the studies indicate that the diet varies with the kinds of vegetation growing in the habitat and with the time of season. Populations may be either mainly gram inivorous or forbivorous. Direct observations of feeding and examinations of crop contents provide records of feeding on ten species of grasses, three species of sedge, and 16 species of forbs. Major grass hosts include blue grama, western wheatgrass, needleandthread, sand dropseed, Idaho fescue, parry oatgrass, and several species of bluegrass. Threadleaf sedge and needleleaf sedge, grass-like rangeland plants, are also major foods. Major forb hosts include scarlet globemallow, woolly plantain, broom snakeweed, fringed sagewort, Fendler sandwort, dandelion, and several species of milkvetch.

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