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Is that a grasshopper or a cricket?

August 8, 2008

On the 29th of July a merry band of DWTand Urban Heath Partnership  volunteers and staff set out for a day of identifying grasshoppers and crickets! Our destination was the National Trust Reserve at Studland, where many orthopterists in the making were gathering to eagerly await the sight or sound of a Mottled grasshopper, a Bog bush-cricket or Rees Cox our grasshopper guru and guide.

Male Meadow grasshopper

Male Meadow grasshopper

The Nature Reserve at Studland is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest and an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Former National Trust Warden Rees Cox worked at Studland from 1968 until the 1990s, so he knows his crickets from his grasshoppers! Luckily for those of us who were ill prepared for catching grasshoppers Rees had brought specimen jars to place the grasshoppers in temporarily. With closed, cupped hands the tracking down and capture of the insects began!

Studland Heath

Studland Heath

Our first capture of the day was a Meadow grasshopper (Chorthippus parallelus).  Rees told us how to tell the difference between the female and male Meadow grasshopper; the female is slightly larger and the males abdomen is upturned at the end.  Then we spotted a Long-winged cone-head cricket (Conocephalus discolor).  The way to distinguish between the sexes in crickets is that females have a long ovipositor; this is used by some species to lay eggs in the ground.  The ovipositor is situated at the end of the abdomen. 

Long-winged cone-head cricket

Long-winged cone-head cricket

To tell the difference between a cricket and a grasshopper is actually quite simple.  As you can see from the pictures crickets have very long antennae whilst grasshoppers do not.  Before lunch we also found Field grasshoppers (Chorthippus brunneus), Stripe-winged grasshoppers (Stethophyma lineatus) which is distinguished by a white crescent-shaped stripe on its wing, the Mottled grasshopper (Myrmeleotettix maculatus), where the male of the species has distinctive hockey stick shaped antennae, and also the rare Heath grasshopper (Chorthippus vagans). The Bog bush-cricket (Metrioptera brachyptera) was also captured, this specimen was found in the wetter part of the heath.

A brief departure from grasshoppers and crickets if we may.  A Jersey Tiger moth (Euplagia quadripunctaria) was found and Rees had never come across this species at Studland before!

We also learnt about the calls of grasshoppers known as stridulation and  this is usually performed by the male grasshopper. Meadow grasshoppers making a chirrup that sounds like a sewing machine whilst the Stripe-winged grasshopper chirrup sounds like a record player reaching the middle and repeating.  

We stopped for lunch on the brow of a hill and had a lovely view over Studland beach and Little Sea (a fresh water lake).  Once everyone was sufficently revived we headed off in the minibus to a field just off the main road into Swanage.  There we came across some of the more common grasshoppers – Meadow, and Field, and a lovely red variety of the Meadow grasshopper.  Here the team also captured the Grey bush-cricket (Platycleis albopunctata) and the supremely impressive Great green bush-cricket (Tettigonia viridissima), both a male and female, whose body’s were a couple of inches in length.

 A great day of identification was had by all, and as you can see we all learnt a lot.  And so we disbanded, each of us happy in the knowledge that we could tell the difference between a cricket and a grasshopper! 



3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 9, 2008 8:36 am

    God I wish I’d known about this… I’ve been struggling with grasshopper/cricket ID’s all summer. Sounds like you had a great day. Count me in if you go again next year. The pictures seem to have shrunk in this post. Bigger pictures please! Jane

  2. kama permalink
    December 28, 2011 7:43 pm

    I’m pretty sure its a grasshopper because cricket is smaller than grasshopper & are you talking about the first picture? cause if you ae it is most definately a grasshopper i think (:


  1. The Lunch Guest Wore Green

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