Grasshoppers

In late summer it is hard to take a walk in a field without seeing or hearing grasshoppers. What can we find out about these long jumping creatures? If you are going to look closely at a grasshopper, you will have to catch at least one. They are not quite as quick when the temperature is cool. Try catching grasshoppers in the cool of the morning instead of the heat of the afternoon. Try holding a jar in front of a grasshopper with the open top near the grasshopper's head. Can you get it to jump into the jar? Maybe you could make a net to help you. (See below.) 


Are grasshoppers insects? If they are, they should have six legs and three main body parts - the head, the thorax (the chest where the legs and wings stick out), and the abdomen (the tail end where most digestion of food and mating parts are). 

Look at a grasshopper. Does it have all of these things? If it does, it is an insect. 

Well, if you answered that question for yourself, you must have caught a grasshopper. Aren't they great jumpers? Just how far can a grasshopper jump? Can they jump farther than you can? 

The best way to compare the jumping of different animals is to find out how many times its own body length each animal can jump. So, measure a grasshopper. Now mark a spot on a driveway or sidewalk. Put the grasshopper down at the mark and get it to jump. Measure how far it went. Divide this distance by the length of the grasshopper. How many times its own length did it jump? How many times your body length can you jump? Try some more grasshoppers. Are some better jumpers than others? Do they jump better when it is hot outside than when it is cool? 

Wait a minute, compare different animals? Is a grasshopper really an animal? For large living things, there are three main choices - plant, animal, or fungus. Is a grasshopper a plant? Is it a fungus? Well then I guess it must be an animal. Birds, mammals, insects, fish, reptiles, amphibians, worms are all animals. When some people talk about animals they really mean mammals. 

Insects have two different life cycles. Some have an egg, a larva, a pupa and an adult stage. This life cycle is called complete metamorphism. You can tell when an insect has this kind of life cycle. The larva looks very different from the adult. It has no wings. The wings grow all at once during the pupa stage. Butterflies, beetles, bees, and flies all have this kind of life cycle. 

Some insects have a different life cycle called incomplete metamorphism. It starts with an egg, then a nymph and then an adult stage. The nymph looks a lot like the adult but smaller. The nymph starts to grow small wings but it will not be able to fly until it is an adult. Cockroaches, praying mantises, and dragonflies all have this kind of life cycle. 

Which life cycle does a grasshopper have? 

Can you find small grasshoppers that do not fly yet but have small wings growing from their thorax? If you can, this proves grasshoppers go through incomplete metamorphosis. 

Are all grasshoppers the same color? Are all grasshopper adults the same size? How many kinds of grasshoppers live in your area? How do grasshoppers make sounds? Do both male and female grasshoppers do this? What do grasshoppers eat? What is that brown liquid some grasshoppers spit out when you grab them? 

There is a lot to find out about grasshoppers from books and the Internet and from your own observations. So get to work there scientist! What more can you learn?

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