Well, do they? It’s not a question that’s occurred to me before, to be honest. Out and about, I see grasshoppers jumping so energetically as to achieve momentary airborne-ness, but I don’t see them actually flying. And yet when a grasshopper appeared on a friend’s 20th-floor balcony, the question naturally arose.
Had it climbed up the brickwork, like the star of my award-deserving video? Had it flown in? Could it fly out?
Life asks big questions that want clear answers and, like a third-grader craving attention, Google waves its hand madly . . .
Teacher! Pick me!
Teacher! I know! Teacher!
And, to be fair, it usually starts out well enough, offering what looks like straightforward and accurate information . . .
The grasshopper has two pairs of wings. The front pair is rigid, while the hind pair is larger, membranous and often brightly coloured.
. . . but then it disappoints, at least for the purpose at hand.
These wings help some species fly well, yet others fly poorly or not at all. [emphasis added]
So that’s a clear “Maybe.” What else can we learn?
Grasshoppers are well known for their songs . . .
OK, that’s pretty definitive: The insect that sings. Good. I wonder how they do it?
. . . songs which are made in different ways by different subfamilies. Some make sounds by rubbing pegs on their hind legs together, some clatter their wings together in flight, some rub their wings together . . .
OK, I can live with that variability. It sorta adds to the charm, you know? But wait. What’s this?
. . . and others do not make any noise at all. [emphasis added]
Charming. It’s a flying insect, except when it can’t fly at all, and it’s known for its song, except when it can’t make any noise at all.
Anything else we should “know”?
Some species eat only certain types of plants while others eat any type of plants
it [sic] can find and some do not eat at all. [emphasis added]
No, no, I added that last bit. Not-eating would be silly: All God’s children have to eat. And it seems that eating might be the one thing that all 18,000 (!) species of grasshoppers have in common.
All species of grasshoppers share the common characteristic of being a long, slender insect . . . known for its strong mandibles, or jaws, which are adapted for chewing.
So, *do* grasshoppers fly? Yes. Sort of. And no. Which leaves me no nearer to answering the questions about the specific grasshopper on my friend’s balcony: How it arrived and how it might leave.
But I’m positive it could chew. Because it was, after all, a grasshopper.