Carolina Grasshopper

Common Name: Carolina Grasshopper.

Scientific Name: Dissosteira Carolina.

What to look for?  Many insects that we see around Carillon Stonegate Pond have vividly beautiful colors. Not so with the Carolina Grasshopper. They have a grayish-brown body. This coloration allows it to blend easily with the woods, dry soil, and dusty roads where it lives. They are well camouflaged while at rest. Their forewings match the general body color and have faint speckles. Their hind wings are black with a pale-yellow border, seen only when in flight. The forewings are leathery and shelter the second pair or hind wings - the flying wings.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? The Carolina Grasshopper can be seen from late-summer to fall - late July into October. Look for them around our walking paths and the turn-around circle on our western edge.

How big are they? The female Carolina Grasshopper is just over two (2) inches long with a wingspan of approximately four (4) inches in length. The male Carolina Grasshopper is slightly smaller with a body length of just over one (1) inch and a wingspan of approximately three (3) inches in length.

What are their flight patterns? The Carolina Grasshopper is a strong, adept flier. Males are noted for their hovering flight during courtship, where they rise almost vertically several feet, hover for several seconds and flutter down to the ground close to where they started. In typical flights, adults fly short distances (20 to 40 feet) at low heights.

How else do they behave? The Carolina Grasshopper are ground-dwellers and are active mainly during daylight hours. They have a habit of flying over dirt roads and other bare ground.

What’s for dinner? While the Carolina Grasshopper selects food plants from both grasses and forbs, they primarily feed on weeds, including dandelion, and kochia.

Where do they take up residence? Carolina Grasshoppers are found across the continental U.S., except Gulf Coast, southwest Arizona, and coastal California and are found across southern Canada and into northern Mexico. They are found in abundance across all of Illinois. They reside in a wide variety of habitats, including weedy grasslands, and disturbed rangeland. They prefer disturbed, often dusty habitats, such as dirt roads, paths, and vacant lots.

When and where do they breed and nest? In late summer, female Carolina Grasshoppers deposit clusters of eggs in undisturbed soil in fields, roadsides, and pastures. These eggs overwinter in pods in the soil. The Carolina Grasshopper goes through incomplete metamorphosis, meaning that the young do not go through the caterpillar and pupae stages of life. Nymphs begin hatching from eggs in late May and June in Illinois. The nymphs have several instars or molts before they become adults. This nymphal development requires upwards of 50 days. Carolina Grasshoppers complete only one generation per year. Once Carolina grasshoppers acquire functional wings, they fly and disperse extensively.

Where do they migrate? Carolina Grasshoppers do not migrate. They may travel for food or warmer temperatures. In our area, Carolina Grasshoppers overwinter as eggs.

Do they make any interesting sounds? During the hovering flight, Carolina Grasshoppers produce a soft, sibilant (hissing) sound. In flight, it sounds more like a rattle.

Interesting Facts About the Carolina Grasshopper:

  • Carolina Grasshoppers are one of North America’s most widely distributed insects.

  • In flight, Carolina Grasshoppers are sometimes mistaken for Mourning Cloak butterflies.

  • They are also known as Carolina Locust, Road Duster, and Black-winged Grasshopper.

  • They like warmer temperatures, so you will only see them during peak sunlight hours.

  • They are not a crop pest, although they have been known to damage certain corn, beans, potatoes, and tobacco fields by eating the leaves.

For more information on the Carolina Grasshopper and sources of information used in this blog (these are the several of the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit University of Wyoming Entomology, Iowa State University Bug GuideMississippi State University Bug’s Eye View, and University of Wisconsin Milwaukee Bug Lady.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, insects and plants. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.

 

Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!