For some reason, I’ve found myself increasingly fascinated with certain grasshoppers—not just any grasshoppers, but band-winged grasshoppers (family Acrididae, subfamily Oedepodinae). And not just band-winged grasshoppers, but band-winged grasshopper nymphs. It began last year when I found adults and nymphs of Trimerotropis latifasciata in the Glass Mountains of northwestern Oklahoma. I believe it has something to do with the combination of their frequent association with the same habitats where I look for my beloved tiger beetles and their marvelously cryptic coloration. Adults themselves are cryptic enough—that is, until they flash their brightly colored hind wings, but the nymphs are positively invisible until they move. Moreover, many species show a wonderful range of intraspecific diversity in their crypsis—Ronald Reagan may have thought every redwood tree looked the same, but when you’ve seen one band-winged grasshopper nymph, you most certainly have not seen them all.
These two band-winged nymphs were seen at St. Joe State Park (St. Francois Co., Missouri) in the vast central “sand flats” of the park (actually waste areas of crushed limestone tailings left from lead mining operations during the previous century). At first I assumed they each represented a different species, but based on comments at BugGuide I take both of them to represent Pardalophora phoenicoptera (orange-winged grasshopper)—distinguished from Xanthippus by having only one notch in the pronotal crest and unusual amongst most grasshoppers in that the winter is passed as a nymph rather than egg. This leads to well-developed nymphs at the beginning of spring and adults much earlier in the season than many other grasshoppers. These photos were taken on April 28, and the size of the wing pads suggests they are not quite full-grown yet, maybe 3rd or 4th instars. Acridoid aficionado David J. Ferguson has found this species in the Ozarks on rocky/gravelly hilltops (e.g., “cedar glades”) and on gravelly or stable sandy slopes in sunny openings in Oklahoma. He places the species (particularly the green ones) high on his favorite hopper list, and I’d have to say I agree with him (so far).
One of these days, I’m going to find and photograph the king of all green oedepodines—Trimerotropis saxatilis!
Update 6/8/11: Dave Ferguson has kindly confirmed the ID, writing:
…yes these are identified correctly. Assuming 5 instars, they look like 4th (where there are 6 instars, numbers 4 and 5 look a lot alike).
Copyright © Ted C. MacRae 2011