Friday, November 12, 2010

A GRASSHOPPER BY WHATEVER NAME


I have a succinct word of advice to anyone who's at risk of succumbing to the notion of attempting to identify a particular grasshopper down to species level…don't! Not unless you're at least a master's level entomologist, and know your way around the Caelifera suborder like the rest of us know the shelves of our refrigerator. 

Officially, there are about 8,000 species of grasshoppers worldwide—though many more are waiting to be named and catalogued. Upwards of 660 species, in four families, are scattered throughout North America. As best I can determine, a bunch of them are found in Ohio—of which, the grasshopper in the photo is one

No, "bunch" is not a scientific term. It is a noun born of frustration, irritation, exasperation, vexation, and possibly other words ending in "ation," which I employ in lieu of an imprecation. I have just spent a, uh, bunch of time paging through BugGuide's 300-plus pages, each with multiple photos, trying to put a name to the critter in question.

I found this fine fellow sitting in a bush enjoying the warmth of the afternoon sun. I wouldn't bet the farm on it, but I believe it is a Melanoplus punctulatus, otherwise known as a Pine Tree Spur-Throat Grasshopper. There is also every chance in the world that my tentative I.D. isn't anywhere close.

You might recall from Aesop's Fables the tale of the hard-working ant who labored to get his home and stores of food ready for winter, while the lazy grasshopper spent his time idling in the summer sun. When the chill hit, the shivering grasshopper begged the ant to take him in and share—only to have the insensitive creature slam the door in his face. I've never really liked the ant for this, in spite of his proletarian efficiency. My sympathies are with the grasshopper. The snobbish ant may have been effective at seeing to his own needs, but he shows a decided lack of neighborly charity.

I just hope one of robins which have been scratching around the yard all day doesn't spot my long-legged friend while he's sunning and nab him for a tasty snack. But if I see it about to happen, I'll try and get the photo.
* * *
*POSTSCRIPT! I've just read that one of the common names for the Pine Tree Spur-Throat Grasshopper is the "Grizzled Grasshopper." Ha! Is that not an addendum of cosmic verification, or what?  
——————— 

27 comments:

George said...

An interesting photo, Grizz. Having enlarged it for a closer look, I think I'm going to have a little difficulty getting to sleep tonight. I'm sure this little creature is perfectly harmless., but he's clearly going to have difficulty getting a date for the prom.

grammie g said...

Hi Grizz... A grasshopper by any name...I wouldn't know the difference. : }
Don't things like that "bug ya" when you can't figure it out!!
Maybe someone will know and tell you and I'm sure there will be somebody to dispute your findings!! ; }
Have a great weekend!

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ-

fascinating :-) and great picture in a creepy-crawly kinda way.
Love you
Gail'
peace.....

Grizz………… said...

George…

Drat it. You would go and enlarge, wouldn't you…and thereupon see it isn't quite as crisp as usual. So here's the rest of the story—I was talking on the cell phone when I spotted this little hopper. (He's only about an inch, or maybe a bit more, long.) So I held the phone against my ear with my shoulder and made three quick snaps, all set on automatic. I could have used a tad more depth of field and a lot steadier hold. This was the best of the tree. The worst part is I know better.

I think ol' Hop's prom days, and any need for snagging a date, are long gone. It is November, after all. Probably the next big event in his life is going to be the Big Chill…which will probably also prove to be the last event in ol' Hop's life. Autumn is a sad time if you're an Ohio grasshopper.

Grizz………… said...

Grammie…

Trust me, I don't know the difference, either. I suppose if I'd have taken time to really look at this little hopper, and made more and better photos, I might have been able to key it down with a bit more certainty. But I didn't. And I'd guess it's almost impossible, even for an expert, to distinguish many grasshoppers with only a single photo—at least a photo as mediocre as mine.

Grizz………… said...

Gail…

Huh. You and George see my little hopper buddy as creepy-crawly…I say to qualify for creepy-crawly the thing has to have eight legs. (No, I don't mean four of the original 1933 Rockettes.)

Take care…

Tramp said...

Hi Griz
My knowledge of these creatures is very limited. On a summer evening here, in the fields between the village and the forest, a sound is very audible but they are probably crickets. Many think our village's name comes from the Czech word for cricket but the historians tell me that it was actually named after a family of aristocrats.

I also enlarged your image to check on some details, explained but not well illustrated on the sites where I was checking on crickets and grasshoppers.

Yes, so in this subject. Again I thank you for introducing me to this topic.
...Tramp

Wanda..... said...

What does happen to all those hundreds/thousands of tiny grasshoppers, hopping in my field ...come every winter?

Grizz………… said...

Tramp…

I recently bought a really excellent book, "The Songs of Insects," by Elliott and Hershberger, dealing with the singing insects of North America such as crickets, katydids, locusts, and grasshoppers. (The book also has a CD of their various songs.) The photos are beyond amazing.

But, since most grasshoppers don't sing, there wasn't a chance I'd find the hopper of my post listed. So I began paging through BugGuide's grasshopper illustrations. If I'd have had a lick of sense, I'd have read a lot more beforehand—but no, I figured I'll just flip through and match up pictures. There are maybe 20-40 grasshopper pix per page. After about 50 pages of eye-watering disappointment, it occurred to me that maybe the task was bigger than I'd thought. So I flipped to the last page of grasshopper pix and found, to my utter astonishment, there were 342 pages! Each with several dozen photos! Who knew! Hence the tone of the post.

I simply had no idea there were so many species of grasshoppers out there leaping about.

Hilary said...

I try to ID whatever critter or plant I photograph too, so I understand your frustration with this little guy.

Now I must go and clean my refrigerator shelves.. as in the state they're in, I can't ID too much there either. Thanks for the reminder. ;)

Grizz………… said...

Wanda…

Possibly even millions, depending on how many acres of fields you have.

What happens? The majority of adult grasshoppers die off.

Most overwinter as nymphs—that is, the adults lay eggs in the spring or summer, the eggs hatch into a nymph late in the summer or fall, and the nymphs overwinter and become adults the following spring…and the cycle begins again. (The adult grasshopper you saw hopping around in August, though, passed on to that Big Grassfield in the Sky.)

Sometimes, the eggs are laid, don't have a long enough season to turn into nymphs but overwinter as eggs, hatch into nymphs the following spring, overwinter a second time as nymphs, and become adults the next spring.

A very, very few hardy/lucky adults managed to find winter quarters warm and protected enough that they managed to survive winter and see a second spring.

Grizz………… said...

HA! I seldom add a postscript to my posts, but had to make an exception this time around.

If you read the post soon after I put it up—that is, before t8:30 this morning—check out the addendum at the bottom. :-)

Nope, it doesn't make my identification any more accurate, but it sure makes it see like it ought to, don't you think?

Grizz………… said...

Hilary…

That's why I think photography teaches you more about nature than most non-photographers every imagine. It's often a lot easier to make the photograph than it is to make the identification. You have to learn to look for the tell-tale details.

I shoot lots of bugs, which are almost always an I.D. challenge to me. So are many small plants and blooms—at least in keying them down to the species level. I also like to shoot plants in winter when all you have are dried stalks, possibly a seed or flower head, and maybe one or two twisted brown leaves. I'm pretty hopeless with this stuff.

Of course, you don't have to know the name of something to enjoy its beauty.

Bonnie said...

Cosmic something ... for sure! If you ever decide to change up your avatar, the Grizzled Grasshopper is ready. Funny how you had such an affinity for him before you even knew his name!

Grizz………… said...

Bonnie…

Humm-m…the Grizzled Grasshopper, kinda makes me sound like a geriatric kung fu student. I'm not sure I can readily strike fear into the hearts of my enemies and detractors with such a milquetoast moniker.

It is weird how the name business worked out—though the grasshopper of my photo may not be the actual Grizzled Grasshopper.

Jayne said...

Well then... of course your ID is spot on!

Dan Gurney said...

I enjoyed learning more about grasshoppers. I had no idea there were so many kinds.

I also enjoyed your contemplation on the ant's character in the Aesop fable. These stories sometimes feature covert messages approving of anti-social behavior. Another example is Jack (of Beanstalk fame) who is, basically, a thief.

The Weaver of Grass said...

All I can say is that it is a good job these creatures are quite small - imagine it three times that size and I, for one, would keep well out of its way. As usual an excellent photograph.

THE OLD GEEZER said...

I added myself to follow your blog. You are more than welcome to visit mine and become a follower if you want to.

God Bless You :-)

~Ron

Grizz………… said...

Jayne…

Well, I'm going to claim flawless research and ID victory until someone who actually knows what they're talking about comes along.

When two Grizzleds come face-to-face in a meadow, it must be kismet.

Grizz………… said...

Dan…

I gotta tell you, I certainly had not a clue there were so many species—but then,the sum total of my entire grasshopper knowledge could have been written out on a 3x5 card—probably on the front side alone.

Some of those old fables and nursery stories are downright mean-spirited, touting the sort of behavior that crosses over to the wrong side of acceptable/legal/moral behavior. I think they're early examples of disinformation.

Grizz………… said...

Weaver…

I'll tell you one thing, if grasshoppers grew to the size of blackbirds, you and the farmer and Tess would have to spend your days guarding your fields, or they'd eat everything right down to the dirt.

Grizz………… said...

Old Geezer…

You're most welcome to become a part of the riverbank herd. I hope you always enjoy visiting. Re. your blog, I have and I will. And blessing in return.

Again, welcome.

Val said...

I enjoyed your interview at Bonnie's Original Art Studio; bugs are fascinating, and sometimes horrifying by nature; in summr months here we are beseiged by wierd and wonderful creatures - I am sure there are new ones every year that have yet to be identified. well done on the grasshopper :) I will def sign up as a follower. thanks for a great blog V

Grizz………… said...

Val…

I've sort of gotten into photographing various insects—starting simply because they are so available. Then I realized how gaudy, lovely, strange some were. Now I'm becoming interested because I've had to learn details to go with the photos.

I'll bet you do have countless exotic and fascinating insects there.

Thank you for the kind words re. the interview at Bonnie's Original Art Studio. She did a wonderful job, making me sound great.

And thank you for visiting the riverbank. Please stop by whenever you wish; you're always welcome.

Freda said...

Love the photograph of the grasshopper - I didn't enlarge it btw - so saw it sharp and dapper. I have rarely seen them here in the UK they tend to hide in the long grass and even then there is only the odd chirrup. How wonderful it is to go somewhere abroad and hear the chirrup of amazing things like cicadas and giant grasshoppers.

Grizz………… said...

Freda…

Well, the grasshopper was just not one of my better bug shots—but then that's just my persnickety perfectionist self listening to my green-eyed ego whispering. The shot is really okay, and I'm pleased you liked it.

Didn't realize 'hoppers were rather scarce over there.I know you like in a beautiful country, one I'd give anything to see one of these days.

BTW, I liked your blog and posts. I'll be back for another visit.