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The meadow grasshopper, Chorthippus curtipennis (Harris), is a widespread species in western and northern states and in provinces of Canada. Of the large number of species in the genus Chorthippus, only this one inhabits the Nearctic region. The other 70 to 80 species are Palaearctic.
Habitats of the meadow grasshopper include stands of tall lush grasses growing in hayfields, pastures, swales, roadsides, mountain meadows, and along edges of marshes, lakes, and ponds. In the mountains of Colorado this species is characteristic of moist areas dominated by sedges or rushes up to altitudes of 11,000 feet.
The diet of this grasshopper varies with the kinds of grasses and sedges growing in its habitat. In the tallgrass prairie of the Midwest, patches of little bluestem and big bluestem not only provide favored habitats but also preferred food plants. Kentucky bluegrass is also a preferred host plant in the Midwest and elsewhere. In Idaho the diet of this grasshopper was found to consist of 59 percent Idaho fescue, 19 percent western needlegrass, and 14 percent elk sedge.
A total of 16 species of grasses and 4 species of sedges have been found in crop contents. Undoubtedly this list of food plants is far from complete. Crop contents may also contain small amounts of forbs, pollen, fungi, and arthropod parts.
In most years a small percentage of both males and females have long wings reaching beyond the abdomen. In Michigan's George Reserve, 2 percent of adults possess long wings. These adults are equipped to make extensive dispersal flights. Although direct observations of dispersal are lacking, females with long wings have been found in the center of cities several miles from breeding areas. A male and a female were found recently on the ice of Grasshopper Glacier in the Crazy Mountains of Montana.
The nymphs are identifiable by their shape, external structures, and color patterns (Fig. 1-4):
1. Head with strongly slanted face; antennae filiform and flat; lateral foveolae indistinct in instars I and II, oblong and distinct in instars III and IV.
2. Brown stripe runs along side of body from behind compound eye to nearly end of abdomen in instars I and II; face, sides of head, and lobes of pronotum are usually solid green or yellow in instars III and IV.
3. Pronotum with lateral carinae nearly parallel in instars I and II; lateral carinae slightly converging on prozona in instars III and IV.
4. Hind femur with medial area light brown to brown.
While sitting alone on a blade of grass, the males frequently stridulate to produce a calling song that attracts females. Receptive females respond by stridulating a soft answering song. Males have special songs for courtship of females (stationary, advancing, and mounting) and for aggression against other males. These songs are clearly audible to humans. The calling song has a slower pulse rate produced by first raising both hind femora 70 degrees from horizontal, then pressing them against the forewings and finally lowering the femora to produce each pulse of sound.
The start of a successful mating begins with the male approaching a female 12 inches away and stopping several times to stridulate in courtship. When 1 inch from her, he changes his stridulation to produce an advancing song and then rushes to her side. As he mounts and attaches his genitalia, he again stridulates and produces a mounting song. After 30 minutes of copulation, he dismounts and crawls away. The affair is over.
A gravid female deposits a clutch of four to six eggs in the soil at a depth of three-quarters inch. The eggs are oriented vertically to 20 degrees from vertical at the bottom of the pod. She takes 25 to 30 minutes to complete oviposition. After extracting her ovipositor she brushes over the exit hole with her hind tarsi and walks away. No studies of the fecundity of the meadow grasshopper have been made. There is one generation annually in plains habitats.
Egg pods of the meadow grasshopper are bottle-shaped and 14 to 16 mm long and 4 mm in diameter at their greatest girth (Fig. 8). Eggs are brown and 4.0 to 4.4 mm long. A coffee-brown, hardened froth forms a 7 to 8 mm plug above the eggs and surrounds the egg mass and each egg.
Under favorable conditions in mountain meadows and parks of Idaho, the meadow grasshopper reaches densities of ten individuals per square yard.
When temperatures fall in the evening, the meadow grasshopper usually takes cover under vegetation and becomes hidden in a manner similar to the clearwinged grasshopper with which they may be associated. The details of their daily activity still require observation and study.
Cantrall, I.J. 1943. The ecology of the Orthoptera and Dermaptera of the George Reserve, Michigan. Misc. Publ. Mus. Zool., Univ. Michigan, No. 54.
Mulkern, G.B. 1980. Population fluctuations and competitive relationships of grasshopper species (Orthoptera: Acrididae). Trans. Am. Entomol. Soc. 106: 1-41.
Otte, D. 1970. A comparative study of communicative behavior in grasshoppers. Misc. Publ. Mus. Zool., Univ. Michigan, No. 141.
Scoggan, A.C. and M.A. Brusven. 1972. Differentiation and ecology of common immature Gomphocerinae and Oedipodinae (Orthoptera: Acrididae) of Idaho and adjacent areas. Melanderia 8: 1-76.
Vickery, V.R. 1967. Distribution and variation in North American Chorthippus (Orthoptera: Acrididae: Gomphocerinae). Ann. Entomol. Soc. Quebec 12: 100-132.
Vickery, V.R., L.M. Crozier, and M.O'c. Guibord. 1981. Immature grasshoppers of eastern Canada (Orthoptera: Acrididae). Memoir Lyman Entomol. Mus. and Res. Lab. No. 9.
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