Melanoplus angustipennis (Dodge)

 
Adult male Adult female

Common name - Narrow-winged spur-throated grasshopper (Heifer, 1972).

Geographic distribution - distributed throughout the Great Plains from Alberta and Manitoba (Canada) to Arizona, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia (Hebard, 1929; Helfer, 1972). In Colorado it is found primarily in the eastern half of the state (Alexander, 1941).

Colorado Distribution Map

Habitat - usually confined to areas of sandy soil, especially in association with grass and the edges of low bushes. Also commonly collected on old, plowed sod land and on pastures grazed heavily for many years (Criddle, 1918; Helfer, 1972; Scudder, 1897; Somes, 1914).

Food habits - in food preference studies, M. angustipennis appeared to be polyphagous with a certain tendency expressed toward forbs. Forbs made up 52% of its diet and grasses 28% of its diet while feeding on 38 different kinds of food. Major food items (presented in mean percent dry weight of food in diet) consisted of western ragweed, 13%; moss, 12%; fungus, 8%; arthropod parts, 7%; and blue grama, 6%. In addition to western ragweed, M. angustipennis showed a preference toward such plants as wavyleaf thistle, sand dropseed, western wheatgrass and the seeds of vetch and sand dropseed. Plants that were eaten in amounts relatively lower than their availability included sand sagebrush, blue grama, prairie sandreed and needleandthread (Mulkern et al., 1969; Ueckert, 1969; Ueckert and Hansen, 1971).

Eggs - eggs range in color from tan to cream yellow. Average egg length, 4.79 mm; average diameter, 1.33 mm. Egg pods usually contain 14 to 18 eggs arranged in two columns (Onsager and Mulkern, 1963; Tuck and Smith, 1939).

Nymph - five instars.

Adult - medium size. Female is slightly larger than the male. Color is variable, often dark grey to dark brown with a redbrown tinge and pale underneath. Top of the head and anterior pronotum dark brown with posterior pronotum and lateral lobes paler; lower face dull yellow. Pronotum may be dull yellow on top. Broad, black bands are below the lateral carinae on the anterior two-thirds of the pronotum. Dorsal posterior margin of pronotum is a rounded right angle. Tegmina are slender and tapering, reaching or slightly surpassing tips of the hind femora. Wings are colorless. Hind femora are dull yellow-brown. Hind tibiae are either pale greenish blue or dull red; spines black. Cerci are short and spatulate at tip; middle third is the narrowest with apical one-third as broad as base. Furculae are slender and somewhat cylindrical, divergent and not more than one-third as long as supraanal plate. Supraanal plate strongly and abruptly narrowed at apical third and notched. Male length, 19 to 22 mm; female, 21 to 22 mm (Blatchley, 1920; Scudder, 1897; Somes, 1914).
 
Male abdomen tip (Top view) Cercus

Oviposition - females seem to prefer cleared areas of sandy soil (Criddle, 1918).

Seasonal history - in eastern Colorado, adults are present from July through mid-September (Ueckert and Hansen, 1971).

Abundance and importance - this grasshopper is, at times, quite abundant on the Great Plains, forming a high percentage of the swarms of grasshoppers. However, typically it is of little economic importance in grassland habitats (Hebard, 1929; Mulkern et al., 1969).

M. angustipennis fact sheet from the Field Guide to Common Western Grasshoppers
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