Grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and locusts all belong to the order Orthoptera. Members of this group share a common ancestor. While all these insects look similar to the untrained eye, each has unique characteristics.
Meet the Orthopterans
Based on physical and behavioral characteristics, Orthopterans can be split into four orders:
- Dictyoptera: cockroaches and mantids
- Grylloblattids: walking sticks
- Ensifera: katydids and crickets
- Caelifera: grasshoppers and locusts
About 24,000 species of Orthoptera live around the world. Most, including grasshoppers and crickets, are plant eaters. Orthoptera range in size from about a quarter of an inch long to nearly a foot.Some, such as locusts, are pests that can destroy crops in minutes. Locust infestations were included in the 10 plagues described in the biblical book of Exodus. Others, such as crickets, are harmless and are considered signs of good luck.
About 1,300 species of Orthoptera are in the United States. There are more in the South and Southwest; there are only 103 species in New England.
Crickets are most closely related to the very similar-appearing katydids. They lay their eggs in soil or leaves, utilizing their ovipositors to insert eggs into soil or plant material. There are crickets in every part of the world. All 2,400 species of crickets are leaping insects about 0.12 to 2 inches long. They have four wings; the two front wings are leathery and stiff, while the two back wings are membranous and used for flight.
Crickets are either green or white. They can live on the ground, in trees, or in bushes, where they feed largely on aphids and ants. The most distinctive aspect of crickets is their song. Male crickets rub a scraper on one front wing against a set of teeth on the other wing to create the sound. They can vary the pitch of their chirps by speeding up or slowing down the movement of their scraper. Some cricket songs are intended to attract mates, while others are designed to warn away other males. Both male and female crickets have sensitive hearing.
The warmer the weather, the faster crickets chirp. In fact, the snowy tree cricket is so sensitive to temperaure that it is often called the "thermometer cricket." You can calculate the exact temperature Fahrenheit by counting the number of chirps in 15 seconds and then adding 40 to that figure.
Grasshoppers are very similar in appearance to crickets, but they're not identical. They may be green or brown, with yellow or red markings. Most grasshoppers lay eggs on the ground. Like crickets, grasshoppers can make a sound with their forewings, but the sound made by grasshoppers is more like a buzz than a trill or song. Unlike crickets, grasshoppers are awake and active during the day.
Differences Between Crickets and Grasshoppers
The following traits separate most grasshoppers and locusts from their close cousins, the crickets and katydids (as with any rule, there may be exceptions):
|Auditory Organs||on the abdomen||on the forelegs|
|Stridulation||rubbing the hind leg against the forewing||rubbing forewings together|
|Feeding Habits||herbivorous||predatory, omnivorous, or herbivorous|