Melanoplus femurrubrum (DeGeer)

 
Adult male Adult female

Common name - Red-legged or Garden grasshopper (Somes, 1914).

Geographic distribution - widely distributed, inhabiting parts of Canada and all of the United States. Also present south of the United States extending into central Mexico (Bruner, 1897; Heifer, 1972; Scudder, 1897). Widely distributed throughout Colorado (Alexander, 1941; Hebard, 1929).

Colorado Distribution Map

Habitat - found among dense stands of grass and weeds, common in cultivated fields, field margins, roadsides, pastures, meadows, lawns and open woods. In the more arid portions of its habitat, it occurs only near water (Cowan, 1934; Hart, 1906; Hebard, 1928; Helter, 1972; Uvarov, 1928).

Food habits - polyphagous in its feeding habits. In one study it fed upon eight species of grass, three sedges and 28 forbes. Bluegrass was the predominant grass eaten while western ragweed and summercypress were the main forbes eaten. It also has been shown to prefer sweet clover, alfalfa, vetch, Erigeron bellidiastrum, wavyleaf thistle, Russian thistle, smooth brome and fleabane (Hewitt, 1977; Kumar et al.,1976; Mulkern et al., 1969).

Eggs - eggs range in color from light brown, pale yellow, brownish-yellow to cream white. Average egg length, 4.37 mm; average diameter, 0.85 mm. 20 to 29 eggs are arranged in two columns within the egg pod (Onsager and Mulkern, 1963; Shotwell, 1941; Tuck and Smith, 1939).

Nymph - five instars.

Adult - size medium but variable. Dull reddish or greyish-brown in color. Pronotum usually is more lightly colored on top than on the lower parts of the lateral lobes. Upper part of the lateral lobe is crossed by a broad black band on the prozona. Dorsal posterior margin of pronotum is curved or a rounded right angle. Tegmina are narrow and gradually tapering; brownish to dark brown, usually with faint brownish spots in median area. Tegmina surpass tip of abdomen and usually the hind femora. Wings are colorless. Hind femora are a blend of olive-green and dull yellowish-brown, sometimes with a greybrown or blackish tinge. Hind tibiae usually are deep red but sometimes yellowish-green. Furculae are long and narrow, about one-half the length of the supraanal plate. Cerci are strongly narrowed on basal half with apical one-half narrowed. Subgenital plate is short epically with apical margin strongly elevated and rounded. Male length, 17 to 23 mm; female, 18 to 27 mm (Blatchley, 1920; Heifer, 1972; Scudder, 1897; Somes, 1914; Uvarov, 1928).
 
Male abdomen tips (Side view) Subgenital plate and cerci (Top view)

Oviposition - ovipositional habits are similar to those of M. bivittatus and M. sanguinipes.

Seasonal history - overwintering occurs as eggs, and adults are present from July to the first frost (Hart, 1906; VanHorn, 1972).

Abundance and importance - the most generally distributed grasshopper in Colorado after M. sanguinipes and the most injurious Melanoplus species in Colorado after M. bivittatus. M. femurrubrum has exhibited slight tendencies toward mass flights during severe outbreaks. However, this species generally is solitary and seldom exhibits any migratory behavior. M. femurrubrum acts as an intermediate host to poultry tapeworm, Choanotaenia infundibulum and to globular stomach worm, Tetrameres americana, which affects turkeys and quail. It also acts as an intermediate host to a tapeworm, Metroliasth lucida, which occurs in the intestines of turkeys and guinea fowl. It is the most common grasshopper found in the United States. It is common in disturbed areas and sometimes becomes a suburban pest (Bruner, 1897; Cowan, 1934; Hebard, 1929; Helter, 1972; Uvarov, 1928).

M. femurrubrum fact sheet from the Field Guide to Common Western Grasshoppers
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Biology of Common Colorado Grasshoppers
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