A quest for grasshoppers…

wing of a grasshopper and Kathy Kirk holding a grasshopper in one hand and her book in another

The Wing of a Grasshopper Showing Banding (left), Kathy Kirk Holding the Book She Coauthored and a Grasshopper (right)

cactus pad with red fruit

Prickly Pear Cactus with Red Fruit

Last week John and I went on a field trip to identify grasshoppers… or at least learning how to identify grasshoppers was the idea! What I learned was that there are 40 species of grasshoppers in Wisconsin, 30 of which are common. What I settled for was being able to classify grasshoppers. That is to place them in one of three categories… slant-faced grasshoppers, spur-throated grasshoppers (nob between the front legs), and banded-winged grasshoppers. Before the trip I knew we had many different grasshoppers in the prairie… brown, green, green and yellow, etc. I thought it would be interesting to be able to identify them.



green katydid with long antenni and brown grasshopper

The Difference Between Katydid (left) and Grasshopper (right) - Note the Long Antennae of the Katydid, While the Grasshopper's Antennae are shorter.

I learned a lot…
1 – I’m not gifted at catching grasshoppers… I did not catch any. On the other hand John caught quite a few grasshoppers, including a baby grasshopper that was so young it only had wing buds. Kathy indicated that it will overwinter and be an adult next year.
2 – I’m happy to be able to classify grasshoppers.
3 – There are a lot of grasshoppers in Wisconsin.
4 – Some species of grasshoppers find each other for reproduction by flashing their wings. This occurs in open habitats.
5 – Other grasshoppers make noise to attract the opposite sex of its species.
6 – Even some grasshoppers can’t identify themselves! That is some of them are so similar that they don’t know they are different species until they try to reproduce and they find out their parts don’t fit.
7 – I’m a plant person. While I could identify most of the plants, a lot of the people on the trip knew their insects, but had no idea about the plants.

red prickly pear cactus fruit, a green and brown frog

Red Prickly Pear Cactus Fruit (left), Leopard Frog (right)

white egglike structure with hole in it and leathery petals

An Interesting Unidentified Structure

The Mazomanie Sand Barrens where we were learning about grasshoppers was interesting in itself. There were prickly pear cactus everywhere and they were loaded with fruit. Also, there were lots of leopard frogs and I seemed to find more of those than grasshoppers. There were lots as grasshoppers too… I just seemed more drawn to the frogs!




snake head on someone's wrist, two hand holding the snake

Garter Snake

Our guide was Kathryn Kirk who coauthored “Guide to the Grasshoppers of Wisconsin” for the Wisconsin DNR. We have a copy of the book although it is currently out of print. You can, however, download a pdf of it from the DNR’s website.

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One Response to A quest for grasshoppers…

  1. I love your site! I’m pretty drawn to frogs, myself. My big project now is learning the plants of our area. I read my Swink& Wilhelm, then go out on a treasure hunt. My goal is to draw every plant that is C=3 and up. No specimens- just photos to draw from. A pen and ink herbarium.

    Anyway, you have done a really nice job here- I’ll be back!
    Thank you

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