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Name: Kaye
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Question:
I was reading a book about Insects to a group of kindergarten students. The children compared their knowledge of insects to what they had seen in the cartoon "Bug's Life". The students and myself had a discussion about whether the Hoppers in the story were locusts or grasshoppers. I insisted that the pictures in our book compared more to a locust in the cartoon than a grasshopper. In my very limited knowledge of intemology, I looked and it appeared to me that the term locust and grasshopper might be interchangeable. It seemed to me locust had wings but that some grasshoppers might also have wings. What if any is the difference between. A grasshopper and a locust?



Replies:
Having somewhat older kids now I must admit I haven't seen "A Bug's Life" but on the always confusing subject of grasshoppers and locusts: I believe all American insects of this group are grasshoppers, and that true locusts only occur in Eurasia, mostly the middle east. I can't tell you immediately what the anatomical differences are, but you should be able to find some good pictures and descriptions in a library. All grasshoppers have wings, I suspect all locusts do also. It is common for people, especially in the western U.S., to call some kinds of grasshoppers "locusts" but that is not technically correct.

John Elliot


HI,

Grasshopper and locust are the same type of insect. However, a locust is a changed grasshopper in that it has different behaviors and coloration. What triggers these changes is not completely understood, but recent evidence suggests that the individuals of a group influence each other. In some locales, locust develop periodically while in others, just the normal grasshopper appears. Both have wings. However, the developing grasshopper takes several months to become an adult. They hatch as very small grasshoppers and grow over the summer months. This is "incomplete metamorphosis", unlike the metamorphosis of butterflys, moths, etc.

Steve


As I understand, "grasshoppers" is a general term referring to two different types of insects, the "long-horned" grasshoppers (katydids), and "short-horned" grasshoppers (locusts). So, "Hopper" in "Bug's Life" would have been a short-horned grasshopper.

Adult locusts have wings, and they fly with a buzzing sound. The wings are actually quite pretty in flight, showing flashes of bright colors. This is surprising for an otherwise olive-drab insect. The larvae lok a lot like the adults, but they do not have wings. They can hop just like the adults, however.

Richard Barrans Jr., Ph.D.



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