Melanoplus sanguinipes (Fabricius)

 
Adult male Adult female

Common name - Lesser migratory grasshopper (Shotwell, 1930).

Recent synonymy - Melanoplus mexicanus mexicanus (Saussure).

Geographic distribution - this species of Melanoplus has a broader geographic range than any other species in the genus. It is distributed throughout the United States except for peninsular Florida and California west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It extends its range as far north as southern Canada and the Yukon River and as far south as the tropical lowlands of Mexico (Shotwell, 1930). Generally distributed throughout Colorado (Alexander, 1941; Hebard, 1929).

Colorado Distribution Map

Habitat - found in open grassland on areas of fairly compact soils, short grasses and in areas with large populations of annual weeds (Scharff, 1954; Shotwell, 1941).

Food habits - an omnivorous species exhibiting a preference toward forbes. Some food preferences are dandelion, tansy mustard, nuttall violet, Sandberg bluegrass, needleleaf sedge, wheat, alfalfa, sweet clover, fanweed, carrot, potato, leadplant, blue grama grass, stork's bill, cheatgrass brome, smooth brome, Medicago lupulina, cudweed, western ragweed, corn, shepherd's purse, pepper grass, blue grass, rabbitbrush, western wheatgrass and needlegrass (Anderson and Wright, 1952; Campbell et al., 1974; Criddle, 1933a; Hewitt, 1977; Mulkern et al.,1964; Mulkern et al.,1969; Pfadt, 1949; Rottman, 1980; Scharff, 1954; Shotwell, 1930).

Eggs - eggs variable in color ranging from pale yellow, yellowish-brown, yellowish-brown-purple to cream white. Average egg length, 4.8 mm; average diameter,1.1 mm. Egg pods are variable in shape, cylindrical or more or less curved and thickened toward the end. The egg pod wall is thin and made of earth. The stopper is formed of a spongy mass occupying one-fourth to one-half of the pod. The number of eggs per pod ranges from 5 to 18, arranged in two columns (Onsager and Mulkern, 1963; Tuck and Smith, 1939).

Nymph - five instars.

Adult - (solitary phase; normal). Medium size. Color is dark grayish-brown often tinged with reddish-brown. Broad black band extends from behind the eyes along the lateral lobes of the prozona. Dorsal posterior margin of pronotum a rounded right angle. Tegmina extend beyond the hind femora by 2 to 3 mm. Tegmina are brown in color often with dark brown spots; slender and gradually tapering. Wings are colorless. Hind femora are light yellow or sulfur brown often with two oblique, broad, dark-brown bands. Hind tibiae usually are bright red but occasionally light blue. Cerci are compressed, about two times as long as broad and obliquely rounded. Furculae are small, slender and diverging and between one-fourth and one-third the length of the supraanal plate. Apical margin of subgenital plate is abruptly elevated, thickened and notched in the middle. Male length, 17 to 21 mm; female, 16 to 27 mm (Helfer, 1972; Somes, 1914; Uvarov, 1928).
(Migratory phase; extinct.) The gregarious and migratory phase of M. sanguinipes is known also as M. spretus. It is very difficult to separate the two, but M. spretus has not been found in present times. Major differences exist in the wing length and shape of pronotum. In M. spretus the wings usually are longer, and the posterior part of the pronotum is more expanded than in M. sanguinipes. The coloration of the two species also is different at times with M. spretus normally being light grayish-brown and tinged with red in color while M. sanguinipes is usually dark grayish-brown and also tinged red in color.
 
Male abdomen tip (Side view) Furculae Subgenital plate (Back view)

Oviposition - oviposition occurs 1 to 2 in. below the surface of the ground, usually in light, sandy loam along fence rows that are protected by Russian thistle, and around the base of wheat stubble and alfalfa. Other favorite oviposition sites include areas near grain or alfalfa stacks, edges of fields and in crowns of wheat, alfalfa, or grass plants (Shotwell, 1930; Shotwell, 1941).

Seasonal history - in northern Colorado nymphs are found from June through August; adults are found from August through October.

Abundance and importance - one of the most widespread and abundant grasshoppers in Colorado and one of the most destructive grasshoppers to grassland and the native range. At times this grasshopper can be a serious agricultural pest. When it occurs in large numbers, it displays migratory tendencies. Adults migrate in large swarms and are very strong fliers capable of migrating long distances. M. sanguinipes usually is more destructive in dryland sections than in irrigated areas. It is common in disturbed areas and becomes a suburban pest (Alexander, 1941; Cowan, 1934; Criddle 1933a; Hebard, 1929; Mulkern et al., 1969; Shotwell, 1930).

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