Do Grasshoppers Fly?

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.

Grasshopper close-up

Fast Facts: Grasshopper



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10 Responses to Do Grasshoppers Fly?

  1. Jim Taylor says:

    If the biologists are right that locusts are grasshoppers that have had a climatically controlled switch thrown that makes them gregarious — turns lonesome Charlie into a herd of rampaging buffalo, basically — then there is no question that grasshoppers can fly. They can fly across the Mediterranean; they can fly across the Atlantic.
    Jim T

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Jim – Although I don’t know what the “not at all” flyers do if their switch gets toggled. Jump across the plains together, I guess.

  2. 18,000 species and you want a singular answer?! You do ask a lot of God!

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Judith – Well, of whom else? 🙂 Maybe I just want species assigners to do a job that makes better sense to me. I’m sure they’ll get right on that.

  3. Tom Watson says:

    I’m still uncertain as to whether grasshoppers can fly. I am, however, certain that I love these lines you wrote:
    “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!”


  4. Utterly fascinating! But now I have to discover the difference between a cricket and a grasshopper — if there is one (or 18,000).

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Laurna – Maybe it’s a matrix. All the grasshopper species down one side . . . Yikes. Maybe not.

  5. barbara carlson says:

    …and leave it did.
    I put out water and a slice of cantaloupe for it. But it pointed turned its back on both and hid under a nearby leaf.

    My two wasps (?) arrived on schedule in August and join me and my breakfast tray on the balcony, checking it out, but not staying. Sometimes they fly into the dark condo, have a look around, and come back out. They are welcome guests.

    After “resting” (?) for 2 days the grasshopper disappeared. It wasn’t a full-blown long one — a mini version. Living in semi-solitude confinement, any new creature to arrive is a diversion, rather like a little spider or bird in my cell. I shouldn’t really complain, having two condos to be stuck in for the duration — but yesterday these 54 walls started to close in on me…

    • Isabel Gibson says:

      Barbara – It’s amazing the things I don’t know. To wit, do grasshoppers eat canteloupe? Are the like me and eat it but don’t enjoy it? Life’s little puzzles.

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