Particularly in Spring, a walk in the woods might turn up a very tiny grasshopper among the dead leaves. These are likely Pygmy Grasshoppers, not ‘baby grasshoppers’. They are also known as ‘grouse locusts’ or ‘grouse grasshoppers’ or in one case, a ‘frog groundhopper’. Pygmy Grasshoppers are members of the suborder Tetrigodea and most occur in the Family Tetrigidae. One exception is Tettigidea lateralis that occurs in the closely-allied Family Batrachideidae. The seven species that are known to occur in our area are listed in the following table and samples are illustrated in the attached pages.
These grasshoppers, as their name implies, are quite tiny with adults ranging from about 7 mm to only 14 mm (half inch) in length. Females are slightly larger than males. Because of their small size and generally cryptic coloration, they are easily overlooked. They can be of various colours, browns though gray and mottled, but never green. Their eyes are rather pronounced and the pronotum is often elongated along the back to cover the thorax. The antennae are short and they lack auditory and stridulatory organs. Wings may be long or short.
Although they can tolerate slightly drier sites, most prefer to live on the ground in damp, muddy situations, frequently close to water. They are reported to feed on vegetation debris and microscopic algae that accounts for their preference for moist habitats. Eggs are laid in soil or mud. Because they over-winter as adults, they are likely to be active shortly after the snow melts in the spring. Given the mild winter this year that gives prospects for an early start to the season, we could expect to see these little fellows out and about in the very near future.
by W.D. McIlveen
Halton/North Peel Naturalist Club