red-legged grasshopper

(Melanoplus femurrubrum)

Conservation Status
red-legged grasshopper
  IUCN Red List

not listed

     
  NatureServe

N5 - Secure

     
  Minnesota

not listed

     
           
           
           
 
Description
 
 

Red-legged grasshopper is a medium-sized, spur-throated, short-horned grasshopper. It is probably the most commonly encountered grasshopper in northern United States and southern Canada. It is especially abundant in southern Minnesota and Wisconsin. It is a strong flyer, commonly flying 30 to 40 feet when flushed. It is the most abundant species of grasshopper in the eastern United States.

The body is dark brown to greenish or reddish-brown. The underside is often bright yellow.

There is a dark stripe behind each eye the continues onto the pronotum and ends abruptly at the hindmost ridge (principle sulcus). There is a distinct, spiny bump (spur) at the base of the neck, between the base of the forelegs. The antennae are red or reddish-brown and are no more than ½ the length of the body.

On the middle pair of legs, the foot (tarsus) is divided into two segments. On the hind pair of legs, the narrow upper portion (the outer face) of the hind femur is dull yellow, is not banded, and usually becomes gradually darker from the base to the tip. The narrow lower portion (the inner face) of the hind femur is yellow. The middle portion of the femur, the broad area between the outer face and inner face, is grooved in a distinct herringbone or chevron pattern. The hind tibia is bright red.

The lower end plate beneath the genitalia (the subgenital plate) is bulbous. The pair of long appendages on the last abdominal segment (cerci) are long and pointed, but this is not visible without a hand lens.

The wings are long, projecting beyond the tip of the abdomen when at rest.

 
     
 

Size

 
 

Male: to 15 16 (17 to 24 mm)

Female: 13 16to 1 (21 to 29 mm)

 
     
 

Similar Species

 
  Migratory grasshopper (Melanoplus sanguinipes) hind tibia are bluish-green or red. The subgenital plate is notched. The cerci are shorter and are rounded.  
     
 
Habitat
 
 

Prairies, woodland edges, wetlands, roadsides, croplands, gardens, and disturbed areas

 
     
 
Biology
 
 

Season

 
 

July to October

 
     
 

Behavior

 
 

 

 
     
 

Life Cycle

 
 

The female thrusts its ovipositor into sod and deposits a pod containing 20 to 26 eggs. The pods are about ¾ long and to 3 16 wide. The female continues depositing egg pods in a scattered pattern, ultimately laying up to 300 or more eggs. The eggs hatch in the spring when plants are green over a period of about 52 days. The nymphs mature into adults in about 40 days. Due to variations in soil moisture and temperature nymphs can be found throughout the summer.

In years of drought adults develop longer wings which enable them to migrate long distances.

 
     
 

Nymph Food

 
 

Shoots and other easily digested parts of the same plants that adults feed on.

 
     
 

Adult Food

 
 

A wide variety of forbs and grasses, including crops such as corn, alfalfa, soybeans, small grains, tobacco, and vegetables.

 
     
 
Distribution
 
 

Distribution Map

 

Sources

7, 19, 24, 27, 29, 30, 82.

 

 
  1/25/2021      
         
 

Southeastern Minnesota is part of the 78,000 square mile center of distribution for the red-legged grasshopper. Conditions in this area are especially favorable, the grasshopper is especially abundant, and outbreaks are frequent. It is one of the most commonly encountered grasshoppers in this area.

 
         
 

Occurrence

 
 

Common to abundant. Crop pest.

 
         
 
Taxonomy
 
 

Order

Orthoptera (grasshoppers, crickets, katydids)  
 

Suborder

Caelifera (grasshoppers)  
  Infraorder Acrididea  
 

No Rank

Acridomorpha  
 

Superfamily

Acridoidea  
 

Family

Acrididae (short-horned grasshoppers)  
 

Subfamily

Melanoplinae (spur-throated grasshoppers)  
 

Tribe

Melanoplini  
 

Genus

Melanoplus  
       
 

The second part of the scientific name (species epithet) is femurrubrum and means “red femur”. This is a misnomer. It is the tibia, not the femur, that is red on this species.

 
       
 

Synonyms

 
 

 

 
       
 

Common Names

 
 

redlegged grasshopper

red-legged grasshopper

 
       

 

 

 

 

 

Glossary

Femur

In insects, the largest, most robust segment of the leg, coming immediately before the tibia. In humans, the thigh bone.

 

Pronotum

The saddle-shaped, exoskeletal plate on the upper side of the first segment of the thorax of an insect.

 

Tibia

The fourth segment of an insect leg, after the femur and before the tarsus (foot).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
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Alfredo Colon

 
    red-legged grasshopper   red-legged grasshopper  
           
    red-legged grasshopper   red-legged grasshopper  
 

Kirk Nelson

 
    red-legged grasshopper   red-legged grasshopper  
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Photos
 
    red-legged grasshopper   red-legged grasshopper  
           
    red-legged grasshopper   red-legged grasshopper  
           
    red-legged grasshopper   red-legged grasshopper  
           
    red-legged grasshopper      
           

 

Camera

     
 
Slideshows
 
Red-legged Grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum)
Andree Reno Sanborn
  Red-legged Grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum)  
     

 

slideshow

       
 
Visitor Videos
 
       
 

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Other Videos
 
  Red-legged Grasshopper (Acrididae: Melanoplus femurrubrum) Nymph
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Jul 6, 2010

Photographed at the Turtle River State Park, North Dakota (06 July 2010).

 
  Red-legged Grasshopper Nymph (Acrididae: Melanoplus femurrubrum) Male
Carl Barrentine
 
   
 
About

Uploaded on Jul 28, 2011

Photographed at Grand Forks, North Dakota (28 July 2011). Thank you to David Ferguson (@Bugguide.net) for confirming the identity of this specimen as well as identifying the sex!

 
       

 

Camcorder

 
 
Visitor Sightings
 
           
 

Report a sighting of this insect.

 
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  Kirk Nelson
9/19/2020

Location: Whitetail Woods Regional Park

red-legged grasshopper  
  Alfredo Colon
8/16 to 8/18/2019

Location: Slinger, Wisconsin

red-legged grasshopper  
  Alfredo Colon
8/10/2019

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

red-legged grasshopper  
  Alfredo Colon
August 2019

Location: Woodbury, Minnesota

red-legged grasshopper  
  Kirk Nelson
9/10/2018

Location: Sunfish Lake Park

red-legged grasshopper  
           
 
MinnesotaSeasons.com Sightings
 
   

 

 

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