USING AN IDENTIFICATION KEY

     Grasshoppers, katydids and crickets have strong hind legs for jumping. They belong to the order Orthoptera which means "straight wings". North America has about 1,000 species. Konza Prairie has 60 to 70. Grasshoppers can be divided into three categories: those with colorful wings, those with a slanted head and those with a spur or peg between the first pair of legs.

     Find out which category your grasshopper belongs to by following the identification key below. Read the first question and answer "Yes" or "No". If you answer "Yes", you are given the name of the group which represents your specimen. If "No", move on to the next question.

     Examine your specimen carefully as you ask yourself each question below. For each additional specimen, start at the beginning of the key and follow the same procedure.

 

Figure 1. llustrated by Ralph D. Scott, from Field Guide to Grasshoppers, Katydids, and Crickets of the United States, by John L. Capinera, Ralph D. Scott and Thomas J. Walker.

SIMPLE KEY TO GRASSHOPPER TYPES

1.  Are the antenna long, reaching to the end of the abdomen or beyond?

     a. If yes, you have a.....................Long-horned katydid or other grasshopper relative.

Field cricket

Snowy tree cricket

Meadow grasshopper

Broad-winged katydid

     b. If no, and the antennae are short and rarely half the length of the insect's body, go to.....................2

2. Look at the hind wing. Is it colorful and / or does it have a black band?

     a. If yes, you have a.....................Band-winged grasshopper.

Band-winged grasshopper

     b. If no, go to.....................3

3. Look at the head from the side. Is the face slanted or the head cone-shaped?

     a. If yes, you have a.....................Slant-faced grasshopper.

Mermiria grasshopper

     b. If no, and the face is more or less vertical, go to.....................4

4. Look between the first pair of legs. Is there are spur or peg?

     a. If yes, you have a.....................Spur-throated grasshopper.

Two-striped grasshopper

Spotted bird grasshopper

     b. If no, and the body is HUGE, you have a.....................Really-big grasshopper.

Lubber grasshopper

     c. If no, and the body is medium sized to large, go back to.....................1

Spur-throated Grasshopper

All members of this group have a distinct conical or cylindrical spur between the front pair of legs (Figure 1).  The front of the face points straight downward, perpendicular to the long axis of the body (Figure 2).  Adults are strong fliers and capable of dispersing long distances.  Many members of this group can be economically damaging to rangeland or cropland.

Figure 1

Band-winged Grasshopper

The front of the face points straight downward, perpendicular to the long axis of the body (Figure 2).  There is no spur between the front pair of legs.  The hind wings of adults are often brightly colored.  Some species feed exclusively on grasses and sedges.  They are usually present in low numbers and are not economically damaging. 

Figure 2

Slant-faced Grasshopper

The front of the face slants back toward the body (Figure 3). There is no spur between the front pair of legs. The hind wings on adults are colorless.

 

Figure 3

Figures 1, 2, and 3, were illustrated by Ralph D. Scott, from Field Guide to Grasshoppers, Katydids, and Crickets of the United States, by John L. Capinera, Ralph D. Scott and Thomas J. Walker.

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