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Grasshoppers, Groundhoppers and Crickets

Credits: David Longshaw

In Wildlife Watch magazine's Summer 2010 issue, we showed you a variety of baby insects to look out for, including a grasshopper nymph like the one in the photo above. But what do these babies look like when they grow up? How many different types are there and where can we find them?
Paul Stancliffe, our feature writer from the BTO, shows us six hoppers to look out for this summer. 

There are many different species of grasshoppers, or Orthoptera (that's the name for this group of animals), found in the UK. In fact, the group is split into four different families; grasshoppers, groundhoppers, bush crickets and true crickets.

 

Here are just a few you might expect to find this summer, if you know where to look...

 

Grasshoppers

 

Grasshoppers feed on plants and can be told apart from crickets by their shorter, stubby antennae. They are also usually larger and prefer to fly and jump away from danger, whereas crickets will often walk. Grasshoppers 'sing' (stridulate) by rubbing their legs against their wings. They famously have 'ears' in their bottoms!

 

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Field grasshopper

*One of the commonest grasshoppers in the UK, along with the meadow grasshoppper.

 

*15-19mm in length.    

 

*Likes sunny spots in short grassy places.    

 

*Found across the whole of the UK and Ireland.

 

*Identified by the sharp zig-zags behind the head. The wings extend beyond the end of the body.

 

*Comes in a variety of colours; green, pink, brown and even purple varieties have all been seen!

 

*Adults can be seen in June and July, but in warm years are even seen into December.   

 

*Can be common in some gardens.

 

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Meadow grasshopper

*Length 10-16mm.    

 

 *Found alongside the field grasshopper but prefers taller vegetation.

 

*Look for it from the south of England to the north of Scotland, but there are none in Ireland.

 

*Identified by short wings that rarely extend beyond the knees and are never longer than the body.

 

*The lines behind the head are almost straight (unlike the field grasshopper), only gently curving inwards at the middle. 

 

*Mainly green in colour, sometimes brown, and very rarely vivid pink!    

 

*The only UK grasshopper unable to fly.

 

*Adults seen in June through to September, but sometimes surviving as long as November.

 

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Mottled grasshopper

*This grasshopper loves sunbathing!     

 

*Length 12-15mm.   

 

*Seeks out the hottest, driest, sunniest spots in short vegetation.

 

*Identified by brown, strongly mottled colour and strong zig-zags behind the head.    

 

*The antennae are clubbed shaped and much thicker in the female.    

 

*Wings reach the end of the body.

 

 *Found all over the UK from June to September.

 

 

 

Groundhoppers

 

Groundhoppers feed on moss and algae and don't have long forewings wings like grasshoppers.

 

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Common groundhopper

*Of the six, this is by far the smallest.    

 

*Approx 5mm in length it is easily overlooked.

 

*It is widespread across the UK.    

 

*Can be found in gardens.    

 

*Prefers mossy areas in any habitat.

 

*Identified by its small size and brown colour.    

 

*Can be found in any moth of the year.

 

*Told from other groundhoppers by its short wings which are only just longer than its body. 

 

 

 

Bush crickets

 

Bush crickets have thin, delicate antennae that can be longer than their bodies and are more active at night than grasshoppers. Some female crickets have a particularly fearsome looking ovipositor (egg laying tube). Crickets 'sing' (stridulate) by rubbing their wings together and can hear through ear-like sensors on their front legs!

 

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Roesel's bush cricket

*Length 13-26mm.    

 

*Likes ungrazed grassland, water meadows, the edges of parks, roadsides and wild gardens.

 

*Found from the south of England to the Midlands and moving north.    

 

*Adults occur from late July to late October.

 

*Has a loud buzzing 'song' that sounds a bit like a buzzing electrical pylon!

 

*Whilst grasshoppers and groundhoppers are vegetarians, bush crickets are omnivorous and will eat each other given the chance!

 

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Long-winged conehead

*Length 16-21mm.    

 

*Likes rough, ungrazed vegetation such as urban wasteland.    

 

*Can be found in wild areas in gardens.

 

*Green with a red stripe down the centre of the head and back.    

 

*The long wings extend beyond the end of the body.

 

*Found from the the south of England to the Midlands but slowly spreading north.    

 

*Adults seen from August to October.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul works for the British Trust for Ornithology, a charity that helps to monitor birds and other wildlife across the UK. You can find out more about what they do by visiting their website www.bto.org. Pictures by Trevor Codlin.