Wyoming distribution map
The Packard grasshopper ranges widely in western North America. It is primarily a rangeland species inhabiting the tallgrass, shortgrass, mixedgrass, bunchgrass, and desert prairies. The species also lives in ruderal habitats and has become recognized as an important cropland grasshopper. It reaches high densities in the northern part of its geographic range and lives in mountain meadows at altitudes as high as 9,000 feet.
This grasshopper has adapted well to cropland and ruderal habitats including roadsides, fence rows, edges of cultivated fields, abandoned farm land, and Conservation Reserve Program land. In certain years it develops large populations that cause serious damage to small grains and alfalfa. Grasshopper surveys conducted in cropland areas of Saskatchewan from 1931 to 1966 reveal that the Packard grasshopper often adds substantially to the damage of cereal crops as an important member of an assemblage along with Melanoplus sanguinipes and M. bivittatus. In certain years the Packard grasshopper is the dominant species, making up 50 percent of the total population. As one moves south the Packard grasshopper becomes less important. It is mentioned as a minor pest in Kansas, although in Oklahoma it has been recorded as damaging cotton, vegetables, small grains, and legumes. The Packard grasshopper is a large species. Live weight of males and females collected from rangeland and roadsides in eastern Wyoming averaged 571 mg and 639 mg, respectively (dry weight: males 141 mg, females 208 mg).
A total of seven grasses and 26 forbs have been recorded from crops of Packard grasshoppers collected from the shortgrass and mixedgrass prairies. The average consumption of forbs from both mixedgrass and shortgrass prairies equaled 85 percent, while grasses equaled 7 and 13 percent, respectively. Among seven grasses found in crop contents, blue grama, sand dropseed, and needleandthread were present in greatest amounts. The Packard grasshopper also fed on ground litter including dead arthropods. In ruderal habitats a variety of weeds serve as host plants including brome grasses, sweetclover, prickly lettuce, western ragweed, and sunflower. In cropland this grasshopper has fed upon winter wheat, barley, fall rye, and alfalfa.
Several direct observations have been made of feeding. On July 11, 1990 at 10 a.m. DST one female was seen crawling on the ground, then stopping to feed a few seconds on plant litter. She then moved to a small peavine plant and reached up her full length to feed on a leaflet. In a roadside habitat, a male (oriented vertical head up) and a female (oriented vertical head down) were observed feeding on the petals of yellow sweetclover. A female on the ground was observed to feed on a dead darkling beetle. In a study area of the mixedgrass prairie, two females on the ground surface were observed feeding on an unidentified small lichen growing among moss.
1. Head with face nearly vertical; color of head in instars I and II greenish tan, instars III to V green; heads of all instars sparsely spotted brown; compound eye fuscous with many light spots; antennae filiform and fuscous, each segment ringed anteriorly pale yellow.
2. Pronotum with lateral lobes greenish tan in instar I, greenish tan or green in instar II, green in instars III to V; lateral lobes with few to many brown spots in all instars; disk of pronotum somewhat darker than the lobes and spots more dense.
3. Outer medial area of hind femur with three to four rows of spots, first row of spots (below upper carinula) separate, not coalescing into lines. Hind tibia pale gray in instar I, pale green in instar II, green in instars III to V; tibia with front edge fuscous in all instars.
4. General color: instar I greenish tan, instar II green or greenish tan, instars III to V green, occasionally tan.
In the mixedgrass prairie of eastern Montana and Wyoming, eggs of the Packard grasshopper hatch from May to early June depending on seasonal weather. In different years first instars may appear as early as May 1 or as late as May 30.
Longevity of adults is relatively long, as decline of densities in summer are almost imperceptible. An average adult longevity of 50 days has been estimated from sampling populations in the mixedgrass prairie. A large part of the adult population of the Packard grasshopper lives through the months of August and September.
Females oviposit in bare ground and lay a clutch of 16 to 29 eggs. Laboratory rearing of adult Packard grasshoppers resulted in an average fecundity of 153 eggs per female at 33°C and 94 eggs at 27°C; the average numbers of pods was 7.7 and 4.8 per female, respectively.
The pod is slightly curved and 1 1/4 inches long and 3/16 inch in diameter (Fig. 10). The eggs lie in the bottom 3/4 inch; froth occupies the top part of the pod. Eggs are tan and 4.7 to 5.1 mm long.
does not track the fluctuations of the dominant species or that of the assemblage (Table 1). However, the Packard grasshopper's abundance in Alberta and Saskatchewan and its residency in meadows of the Rocky Mountains at relatively high altitudes indicate a center of distribution for the species in the colder regions of its geographic range. A summary of relative densities from 1928-44 in a mixedgrass prairie of southeastern Alberta shows that populations fluctuate and that in certain years the species may occur in outbreak numbers, but no absolute densities are available for these populations.
A Montana study ascertained that the Packard grasshopper occupied nine of 38 sites in the mixedgrass prairie and in one site, consisting of 19 species with a density of 10 grasshoppers per square yard, it was second in abundance to M. infantilis. The same study found the Packard grasshopper occupied eight of 11 abandoned fields. In one of the sites the Packard grasshopper was the dominant species at approximately five per square yard.
In ruderal habitats and cropland the Packard grasshopper may be a serious pest. The ecological changes brought about by crop agriculture have created ideal habitats for no less than six species of grasshoppers including the Packard grasshopper. Crop damaging outbreaks in Alberta and Saskatchewan have often consisted of three species: the Packard grasshopper, the migratory grasshopper M. sanguinipes, and the twostriped grasshopper M. bivittatus. In certain localities the Packard grasshopper becomes the dominant species, but more often the migratory grasshopper is dominant, the twostriped is second, and the Packard is third. Factors that appear to have made ruderal tracts more favorable for these species include the formation of better egg-laying sites of drift soil and south-facing slopes, and the introduction of succulent weeds and cereal crops that serve as reliable, abundant, and nutritious sources of food. Estimates based on relative densities indicate that the Packard grasshopper may increase to six adults per square yard in weedy roadsides.
As soon as the rays of the sun strike their resting places, the grasshoppers orient a side perpendicular to the rays and may tilt in the direction of the sun and lower a hindleg to expose more of the abdomen. Individuals that have spent the night on vegetation turn their back or a side to the sun. After basking for two to three hours (soil surface temperatures usually have risen to 80°F and air temperatures to 70°F), the grasshoppers become active. A few adults may become active sooner in courting and mating activities.
When temperatures become too hot, soil above 120°F and air above 90°F, grasshoppers cease activities and take evasive actions. They climb vegetation and rest vertically, head up, 2-10 inches high. They may spread their flexed hindlegs and hold onto a grass stem or leaves with their fore and midlegs. There has been one observation of basking in the evening at 4:55 p.m. DST in which an adult male and female resting on the ground turned their sides perpendicular to the rays of the sun.
Hardman, J. M. and S. Smoliak. 1980. Potential economic impact of rangeland grasshoppers (Acrididae) in southeastern Alberta. Can. Entomol. 112: 277-284.
Hewitt, G. B. 1985. Review of factors affecting fecundity, oviposition, and egg survival of grasshoppers in North America. USDA ARS-36.
Lockwood, J. A., J. C. Burne, L. D. DeBrey, R. A. Nunamaker and R. E. Pfadt. 1990. The preserved fauna of grasshopper glacier (Crazy Mountains, Montana): Unique insights to Acridid biology. Boletin de Sanidad Vegetal 20: 223-236.
Riegert, P. W. 1968. A history of grasshopper abundance surveys and forecasts in Saskatchewan. Memoirs Entomol. Soc. Can. No. 52.
Salt, R. W. 1949. A key to the embryological development of Melanoplus bivittatus (Say), M. mexicanus mexicanus (Sauss.), and M. packardii Scudder. Can. J. Res. (D) 27: 233-235.
Shotwell, R. L. 1941. Life histories and habits of some grasshoppers of economic importance on the Great Plains. USDA Tech. Bull. 774.
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