Wyoming distribution map
The Kiowa grasshopper ranges widely in North America, occupying sparse grassland areas. Preferred habitats are dominated by short grasses, especially blue grama. The largest populations develop in the mixedgrass, shortgrass, and desert prairies. In the tallgrass prairie, the Kiowa grasshopper frequents sites of shorter, sparser grasses that occur on hilltops and in overgrazed or disturbed land.
The Kiowa grasshopper is a medium-sized species. Live weight of males from mixedgrass prairie averages 148 mg and of females 303 mg (dry weight: males 44 mg, females 80 mg).
The Kiowa grasshopper usually attacks a leaf at the tip and eats toward the base. It may feed on a green leaf of blue grama that is oriented horizontally about one-half inch above the soil surface, or it may raise on its hindlegs and bring an erect leaf down to feed while resting on the ground. The front tarsi handle the leaf while the mid- and hindlegs support the body. It may also feed head down at the base of grasses. Adults have been observed feeding on a small lichen that grows in mats on the soil surface.
In evasive flights the adults take off from the ground and land on the ground. Distances range from 4 to 12 feet at heights of 6 to 18 inches. Crepitating softly, the adults fly straight or curved, often taking a right angle turn near the end so that a side is presented to the intruder.
The nymphs are identifiable by their shape, structures, and color patterns (Fig. 1-5).
1. Head: face nearly vertical; dark narrow band on upper edge of fastigium running transversely between top of compound eyes; dark band often becomes broken and less distinct in instars IV and V.
2. Pronotum with disk wrinkled, median carina distinct, cut twice, elevated full length but slightly higher on prozona than metazona; lateral lobe with posteroventral angle drawn acutely downward.
3. Hind femur with diagnostic fringe of hairs on lower carina, more clearly evident in instars III to V.
4. General body color tan with dark brown markings; some individuals pale green with fewer but highly contrasting dark markings (see Figure 2).
The nymphal period ranges from 37 to 53 days in the mixedgrass prairie of eastern Wyoming. In years of an early hatch the nymphal period is extended, while in years of a late hatch it is shortened. Like several species of grasshoppers that have been reared in laboratories at selected temperatures, nymphs of the Kiowa grasshopper undoubtedly develop slower under cooler conditions and faster under warmer.
Although the adults are dispersive, the majority appear to remain in the habitat in which they developed as nymphs. Food generally stays green and abundant through their adult life, and the nymphal habitat contains the bare areas in which females prefer to oviposit. Courtship by the males is carried out on the ground. While approaching a female, the male makes single stridulating strokes of both hind femora. As a male mounts a female, he taps her head with his antennae. Copulation lasts from 25 to 40 minutes. Gravid females deposit their eggs close to vegetation in bare ground. Females take from 40 to 60 minutes to complete an oviposition. After extracting the ovipositor, they brush soil over the hole with their hind tarsi. The pod is an inch and one-eighth to an inch and one-quarter long and contains eight to ten eggs. The eggs lie in a soil cell with slight protection by a minute amount of surrounding froth; a definite froth plug, however, lies above them (Fig. 10). Eggs are 4.4 to 5 mm long and two-toned, brown and tan. When digging pods from the soil, the cluster of eggs invariably falls apart. The species has one generation annually.
In the bunchgrass prairie of southern Idaho where the Kiowa grasshopper inhabits areas lacking blue grama, populations rarely reach densities exceeding one nymph per square yard.
On warm, clear days feeding begins at 9 a.m. with some individuals feeding as late as 11 a.m. After noon when temperatures rise excessively (about 130°F at the soil surface), the Kiowa grasshopper climbs grasses and forbs to rest 1/2 to 1 inch above ground level. Some individuals may crawl on the ground into the shade of vegetation. As temperatures moderate in the afternoon they descend to the ground and may begin to feed once more. Later, around 6 p.m. when temperatures drop to 90°F at the exposed soil surface and 80°F 1-inch high in shade, they begin basking and continue basking until sunset. They evidently shift positions during the night since individuals are found at dawn in various orientations and locations.
Hauke, H. A. 1953. An annotated list of the Orthoptera of Nebraska Part II The Tettigidae and Acrididae. Bull. Univ. Nebraska State Museum Vol. 3 (No. 9) 1: 1-79.
Mulkern, G. B., K. P. Pruess, H. Knutson, A. F. Hagen, J. B. Campbell, and J. D. Lambley. 1969. Food habits and preferences of grassland grasshoppers of the North Central Great Plains. North Dakota Agr. Exp. Stn. Bull. 481.
Otte, D. 1970. A comparative study of communicative behavior in grasshoppers. Univ. Michigan Mus. Zool. Misc. Publ. 141.
Pfadt, R. E. 1977. Some aspects of the ecology of grasshopper populations inhabiting the shortgrass plains. Minnesota Agr. Exp. Stn. Bull. 310: 73-79.
Pfadt, R. E. and R. J. Lavigne. 1982. Food habits of grasshoppers inhabiting the Pawnee Site. Wyoming Agr. Exp. Stn. Sci. Monogr. 42.
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