|scientific name Melanoplus infantilis |
common name Little spurthroated grasshopper
The little spurthroated grasshopper inhabits grasslands, parkland meadows and montane clearings of coniferous forests in western North America (Pfadt 2002).
Melanoplus infantilis nymphs (no wings or short wing buds) hatch in late May to mid-June. Adults (wings extend more than half the length of the abdomen) can be found about 27 to 34 days after the nymphs have hatched and tend to survive into September or October (Pfadt 2002). In Alberta this grasshopper has been found from May to September (Strickland Museum records).
The Melanoplus infantilis is a small spurthroated grasshopper with long wings. This and other grasshoppers of the subfamily Melanoplinae often have a spiny bump on their "throat" between their front legs (Johnson 2002). The medial area of the hind femur has distinctive pattern with dark chevrons and light patches. There are three dark bands on the upper marginal area of the hind femur. The males of this species have cerci with a distinctive forked shape where the lower arm curves down and ends in a blunt tip (Pfadt 2002).
The life cycle of this species is described in Pfadt's Field Guide to Common Western Grasshoppers (2002). Nymphs mature through 5 instars in late spring and early summer when the weather is warm and their food plants are abundant. They have a fast development time compared to other species and despite living at high altitudes they require only one year per generation. A mated female oviposits into soil near clumps of grass and then uses her abdomen to brush litter and soil over the hole. The egg pods are a little over 2 cm long and contain 10 to 13 light tan eggs.
The little spurthroated grasshopper is a known pest of forage crops and rangelands where at high densities it can cause economically significant damage (Pfadt 2002).
The little spurthroated grasshopper consumes both grasses and forbs (Pfadt 2002). It prefers dandelion and brome grass, but will eat almost any vegetation available in its habitat.
This species can be found in the southern half of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the very southern edge of Manitoba. It ranges south to northern New Mexico (based on range map in Pfadt 2002). Records from Alberta indicate that it ranges as far north as Peace River (Strickland Museum).
Melanoplus infantilis spend the night either on the ground or vertically on small shrubs (Pfadt 2002). About one hour after sunrise they begin to bask in the sun either on the ground or atop a crown of blue grama grass. This species will often stir and flex their hind legs during basking.
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