Camnula pellucida (Scudder)
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Distribution and Habitat
C. pellucida continental distribution map
Wyoming distribution map
The clearwinged grasshopper, Camnula pellucida (Scudder), is
distributed widely in North America. It inhabits a variety of grasslands
including the northern mixedgrass prairie, the bunchgrass prairie, and
mountain meadows. A resident population lives in a mountain meadow at 10,800
feet in Colorado, just below timberline.
The clearwinged grasshopper is a severe pest of small grains and grasses.
It is most destructive early in the season when it often completely destroys
spring wheat. Outbreaks on rangelands may devastate grass forage in areas
as large as 2,000 square miles. A population with a density of 20 adults
per square yard will consume the entire available yield of forage grasses
on rangelands of British Columbia. Cage plot tests on native grassland
of interior British Columbia showed that the feeding of this grasshopper
during its nymphal life reduced the yield of Kentucky bluegrass by 5.1
pounds (dry weight) per acre for each grasshopper per square yard. An infestation
of one young adult per square yard reduced yield 1 pound per day over 1
acre. Swarms may invade vegetable crops and feed preferentially on onions,
lettuce, cabbage, and peas. The clearwinged grasshopper is a small species.
The live weight of males collected from an open, grassy area of the Big
Horn Mountains, Wyoming averaged 201 mg, and of females 605 mg (dry weight:
males 55 mg, females 105 mg).
The clearwinged grasshopper feeds mainly on grasses. It prefers succulent
plants of western wheatgrass, reed canarygrass, barley, and wheat. Field
observations at several locations show that it feeds heavily on many species
of grasses, including fescues (Idaho fescue and red fescue), bluegrasses
(Sandberg bluegrass and Kentucky bluegrass), wheatgrasses (western wheatgrass
and crested wheatgrass), bromes (downy brome, smooth brome, and soft brome),
and slender hairgrass. These grasses are not equally nutritious. The most
favorable diets of single species consist of red fescue, three species
of bluegrass, wheat, crested wheatgrass, and intermediate wheatgrass. In
its natural habitat, the clearwinged grasshopper consumes small amounts
of forbs such as fireweed and several species of legumes.
Migration and Dispersal
Myriads of the clearwinged grasshopper hatch in egg beds that may contain
as many as 3,000 to 100,000 eggs per square foot. Pressure of high densities
and depletion of food result in movement of the young nymphs away from
egg beds to the nearest green vegetation. Immature grasshoppers continue
to disperse through all of the nymphal stage. The older instars march in
Adults may migrate long distances in huge flying swarms at either low
or high altitudes, but in recent years only small swarms in flights of
short duration have been observed. These flights may occur in the afternoons
of hot, sunny days. Masses take off into a gentle wind and fly distances
of one hundred to several hundred yards. When egg laying begins, migration
ceases but females fly back and forth between feeding grounds and egg beds.
They move to the egg beds during the heat of the day for oviposition. After
a particular female deposits a clutch of eggs, she flies back to the feeding
grounds in the evening or the next morning and stays there until another
batch of eggs is mature. The males appear to remain on the egg beds outnumbering
and attending the females as they oviposit. Males eventually die on the
Migratory behavior is not characteristic of all populations of the clearwinged
grasshopper. Individuals infesting sodded pasture near Harney, Minnesota,
exhibited little movement. Nymphs developed to maturity close to where
they had hatched and the adults showed little tendency to migrate, flying
only short distances. Mating and egg laying occurred in the same area where
eggs had been deposited the previous year.
Adults of the clearwinged grasshopper are of medium size, yellow to brown,
and possess mottled forewings and transparent hindwings (Fig.
8). The forewings have along their angles light stripes that in the
resting grasshopper with closed wings converge near the middle. The male
(Fig. 6) is noticeably smaller than
the female (Fig. 7). First instar
nymphs are strikingly colored cream, tan, and black (Fig.
The nymphs (Fig. 1-5) are identifiable by
their color patterns and external structures:
(1) Head with lateral foveolae triangular (Fig.
9). Usually a dark bar crosses transversely across front of head under
antennal sockets, across lower part of compound eyes, and onto sides of
(2) Pronotum with median carina low but uniformly elevated; median carina
entire (without notch) in early instars, notched once in front of middle
in the older instars (Fig. 9).
Pronotum with lateral carinae clearly defined (Fig. 9).
(3) Hind tibia fuscous in first to third instar, fuscous or tan in fourth
and fifth instars.
The clearwinged grasshopper is an early-hatching species. Eggs begin embryonic
growth in the summer of deposition and continue until they attain 50 percent
of development (Stage 19). To reach the advanced stage, they require 400
day-degrees of heat at which point diapause stops further summer development.
Lack of soil moisture may retard this initial development.
Diapause in eggs is broken during winter. At 41°F eggs require a
minimum of 70 days of chilling. The rise of soil temperatures above a threshold
of 55°F the following spring starts the final stages of embryonic development.
After experiencing 150 day-degrees of heat, the eggs are ready to hatch.
Emergence begins when soil temperature reaches 80°F and air temperature
65°F. Hatching of all eggs in an individual pod may be completed on
the same day but this process generally lasts two to four days. A warm
spring and favorable soil moisture shorten the hatching period of all the
eggs in a bed. Because the hatching period may be completed in 12 days,
the nymphs seem to appear en masse on bed grounds. Cool, dry weather, however,
may delay the start of hatching by a month and may extend the hatching
period for a month or longer. Hatchlings emerge in the morning when temperatures
are rising rapidly, especially after a shower the previous evening. Hatching
begins around 9 a.m. and reaches a maximum between 11 a.m. and 12 noon.
The nymphs disperse quickly in search of food when large numbers of hatchlings
are present on egg beds of native sod. Movement may be in any direction
and often continues through the entire nymphal stage. Invasion of fields
of young wheat at this time results in extensive crop damage. Nymphs exposed
to warm temperatures and nutritious food plants complete development in
26 days. Less favorable conditions may extend this period to 40 days or
Adults and Reproduction
Because nymphs of the clearwinged grasshopper develop faster than those
of the twostriped, adults of the clearwinged may appear first. The young
adults are dark brownish gray, but as they mature, they turn lighter. When
they become sexually active on the breeding grounds, they turn bright yellow.
In laboratory cages under conditions simulating the natural environment,
males become reproductively mature in five to seven days after fledging
and females in seven to ten days.
Courtship by the male involves holding the antennae upright in a V-shape
and moving the hind femora rapidly up and down and against the tegmina
(ordinary stridulation). The male climbs onto the back of a receptive female
and quickly lowers his abdomen down to make genital contact. Perched precariously
and to one side, the male often becomes dislodged and comes to rest on
the ground at the side of the female or is pulled along behind her.
After a copulatory period averaging 55 minutes, the female seeks a suitable
oviposition site by probing in sod. She digs her abdomen down among grass
roots by opening and closing the ovipositor valves and quickly lays (average
time 22 minutes) a clutch of 28 eggs (range 10-38) in the top inch of soil.
She then covers the hole with a back and sideways motion of the hindlegs
using the tarsi as brushes. The females, in seeking favorable sites for
oviposition, often aggregate on egg beds that may range from a few square
yards to 20 acres or more depending on size of the grasshopper population.
Pods are short and stout, 5/8 inch long and 3/16 inch in diameter, and
are slightly curved (Fig. 10). Eggs
are light brown and 4.7 mm long. Confined in field cages on winter wheat
and Kentucky bluegrass at Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, females averaged 60
days adult life and produced 8 pods or 180 eggs each. The clearwinged grasshopper
has one generation annually.
Populations of the clearwinged grasshopper exhibit extremes of abundance
and distribution. The species can remain virtually unseen for five to ten
years, then increase gradually over three to four years and reach peaks
the following two to three years. During the period of increase, a population
may spread from a few acres of rangeland to more than 2,000 square miles.
These outbreaks consist almost entirely of the clearwinged grasshopper.
The cause of outbreaks appears to be a combination of favorable weather,
nutritious host plants, and reduced rates of predation, parasitism, and
disease. Weather that supports population growth consists of above-normal
temperatures in spring and summer and sufficient rain to keep host plants
green and succulent, particularly fescue, bluegrass, and wheat. Crashes
of dense populations are caused by epizootics of the fungus, Entomophaga
grylli (Fresenius) pathotype I; by drought resulting in starvation
of nymphs or adults; by below- normal spring and summer temperatures that
retard development of nymphs and reproduction of adults; or by low soil
temperatures in winter that may cause up to 100 percent mortality of eggs.
The clearwinged grasshopper, a diurnal insect, is active during the day
and inactive at night. During the night it rests in sheltered places protected
from the cold. As the morning sun warms the habitat, the grasshoppers slowly
crawl from their hiding places and seek sunny positions aggregating on
bare soil, earth clods, and dried cattle dung. As temperatures rise further,
the grasshoppers start moving about and feeding. They are active during
the greater part of the day. If the ground becomes too hot, they crawl
up stems of plants a distance of 2 inches. Just before sundown, they seek
stones and other objects that have retained heat and orient their sides
to the sun. As the habitat continues to cool, they crawl to sheltered places
and become hidden. Several weather elements, particularly temperature and
radiation of the sun, modify behavior (Table
Gage, S. H. and M. K. Mukerji. 1977. A perspective of grasshopper population
distribution in Saskatchewan and interrelationship with weather. Environ.
Entomol. 6: 469-479.
Misra, S. D. and L. G. Putnam. 1966. The damage potential of the grasshopper,
Camnula pellucida (Scudd.) (Orthoptera: Acrididae) on pastures and
ranges in Canada. Indian J. Entomol. 28: 224-233.
Parker, J. R. 1924. Observations on the clear-winged grasshopper (Camnula
pellucida Scudder). Minnesota Agr. Exp. Stn. Bull. 214.
Pickford, R. 1963. Wheat crops and native prairie in relation to the
nutritional ecology of Camnula pellucida (Scudder) (Orthoptera:
Acrididae) in Saskatchewan. Can. Entomol. 95: 764-770.
Pickford, R. 1974. Reproductive behaviour of the clear-winged grasshopper,
Camnula pellucida (Orthoptera: Acrididae). Can. Entomol. 106: 403-408.
Riegert, P. W. 1967. Some observations on the biology and behaviour
of Camnula pellucida (Orthoptera: Acrididae). Can. Entomol. 99:
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