Can Grasshoppers Fly? Or Can They Just 'Hop' Very High?

Sayan Adhikari
Oct 07, 2022 By Sayan Adhikari
Originally Published on Oct 22, 2021
Edited by Katherine Cook
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
Grasshoppers feed on plants, but the question is can grasshoppers fly?
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.1 Min

Grasshoppers are one of the most ancient species on planet earth, living even before dinosaurs existed.

Grasshoppers are herbivorous insects that live under plant cover. They come under the Caelifera, which is a suborder of the order Orthoptera comprising all grasshopper and grasshopper-like insects.

You will find grasshoppers almost everywhere around the world except the extreme poles where vegetation is scarce. They can be found in different regions of the world like tropical wetlands, semi-arid locations, and all grasslands. Grasshoppers cannot survive through extreme winters as adults. Only a grasshopper egg can survive the season unharmed.

Grasshoppers eat plants, feeding both throughout the day and night. Grasshoppers and crickets also eat smaller insects.

Like most other insects, a grasshopper's body is divided into three parts: the head, thorax, and abdomen. Their hind legs have a powerful spring mechanism that helps them to jump high spontaneously. They leap higher and land farther away to protect themselves from surrounding predators or just to find a new spot to stay.

Unlike other insects, grasshoppers do not go through complete metamorphosis. Grasshoppers hatch out of an egg into a nymph.

The nymph then turns into an adult. A grasshopper transforms into an adult insect after its body goes through five molts or shedding cycles. Located in the first segment of the abdomen and tucked under the wings, a grasshopper has its tympanal organs which are attached to the thorax.

Grasshoppers can hear through them. These insects receive their sense of vision through their compound eyes, and the sense of light intensity is understood through their simple eyes.

Grasshoppers smell through their antennas. They have large eyes which are colored to camouflage. Some species feed on toxic plants and store the toxins in their bodies. They use the toxins for protection against predators.

Female grasshoppers are larger than males and lay their eggs underground. Male grasshoppers sometimes have a special structure underneath their wings that helps them to stridulate, i.e., to make sounds in order to sing.

Female grasshoppers do not stridulate as much as their male counterparts. A pair of powerful hind legs help them to jump and flee from danger or find a new place for food.

Are you interested to find information on other insects as well? Check out our articles on can fleas fly and can cockroaches fly?

What kind of grasshoppers fly?

Like crickets, most grasshopper species fly. They fly not only to find new locations to lay their eggs and feed on new crops but also to escape from impending dangers from nearby predators.

Most long-horned grasshoppers like katydids or bush crickets, meadow grasshoppers, and cone-headed grasshoppers can fly. Short-horned grasshoppers, locusts, spur-throated grasshoppers, band-winged grasshoppers, and slant-faced grasshoppers take flight with their pair of hind wings.

Grasshoppers are insects with the ability to fly up to a speed of 8 mph (13 kph). They can jump and fly. A grasshopper can leap up to 20 times its size.

Sometimes they use jumping as a defense mechanism to startle their predators. After leaping into the air, they start flying and escape elsewhere. Grasshoppers are very similar to crickets when it comes to flying.

Not all species of crickets are fliers, some of them rarely fly and others do not fly at all. Crickets also do not always use their hind legs to jump and fly off to a new location.

Rather, they use all of their legs to run across the ground instead of flying. However, if there's a warm light source somewhere at night, crickets will fly and find a spot near it to rest their body.

Crickets can also a produce sound like grasshoppers. They use their hind legs to generate a chirping sound.

How far can grasshoppers fly?

Commonly grasshoppers just jump and fly to neighboring areas in search of food and shelter. They do not fly for long except for migratory species. As for how fast grasshoppers can fly, they can reach speeds of up to 8 mph (13 kph).

Certain species of grasshoppers like locusts can form swarms and fly a longer distance in search of food. A locust is an adult grasshopper that can form a swarm with other adults in search of food.

Swarms are huge groups of insects roaming together for a mutual goal. Swarming locusts can turn many crop fields barren, destroying every plant in their way. The adults in this species form swarms due to climate change and search for new vegetation in warmer regions.

Migratory grasshoppers are known to fly to farther locations in search of meadows and grasslands. This insect is a threat to crops all across the globe.

Why do grasshoppers have wings?

Most species of grasshoppers have wings to fly and escape from predators, find new shelter and crops to feed upon, and also migrate to newer, warmer regions in search of grasslands and meadows.

Grasshoppers are a common source of food for mice, snakes, beetles, and spiders. Whenever they sense danger from their surroundings, grasshoppers use their powerful hind legs to jump into the air and start flying away.

An exception to this would be certain species of grasshoppers like the pygmy grasshopper which are also known as grouse locusts.

The grouse locust is an insect that either has small forewings or none at all. Shield-back katydids look like crickets and are either wingless or have short forewings which cannot be used for flight.

Pygmy grasshoppers have no wings, so how can grasshoppers fly?

How many wings does a grasshopper have?

Grasshoppers have two pairs of wings. The pair of wings at the front are short, narrow, and leathery. The hind pair of wings are wide and membranous. They are mainly used to fly and take off. The front wings have minimal contribution to flight.

The wings of grasshoppers differ in shape, size, and structure across different species. Band-winged grasshoppers have a vivid, colorful pair of hind wings which are covered by their forewings to help them blend in with their surroundings.

In danger, they expose their hind wings and do a sudden wing flash to startle their predators and make them think that they are butterflies. Their wings come in all variations of red, yellow, and black. The brightly colored wings are also used to attract mates.

Grasshoppers also spit out a sticky juice towards their predators when they are in fear of being caught. It's called 'tobacco juice'. Farmers call it 'tobacco juice' because grasshoppers feed upon tobacco plants.

Cone-headed grasshoppers have strong jaws and can bite you if you try to catch them. Aposematic grasshoppers are poisonous. Their poison can hurt humans badly but it's not strong enough to take a life.

Functions Of Wings In Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers have two pairs of wings, the forewings and the hind wings. However, not all species of grasshoppers develop wings. The principal purpose of wings is to fly.

A grasshopper uses its wings to fly after taking a leap into the air using its powerful hind legs. Normally, they fly for some time and then they land in some new spot in search of fresh vegetation to feed on or lay eggs.

Migratory species of grasshoppers and locusts use their wings to fly for longer distances. These species can fly together in a swarm, for miles in search of meadows and grasslands and often wreak havoc to crop fields in their way.

Grasshoppers can fly up to a speed of 8 mph (13 kph) which helps them to escape from their predators. Wings are also used as a form of courtship display among certain species of grasshoppers. A sudden wing flash by band-winged grasshoppers startles their predators who mistake their brightly colored wings to be wings of butterflies.

Certain species of male grasshoppers can also make buzzing or crackling noises with their wings during flight. This is done so that males can attract females to court.

Other species develop very small forewings called vestigial wings. These wings cannot be used for flying but can protect the grasshopper's body from drying up. Vestigial wings are also leathery and tough to cover and protect the transparent and wide hind wings while grasshoppers are resting.

Hopping Mechanism Of Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers can jump up to 20 times the length of their body because of their powerful pair of hind legs. They jump to roam around from place to place or to evade danger.

Grasshoppers extend their long hind jumping legs and push against the surface they stand on. The push itself is strong enough to propel a grasshopper instantly into the air from its resting position.

Grasshoppers also have a special powerful jump called the escape jump. This is especially used to escape from nearby predators.

The escape jump maximizes the take-off velocity to increase the total range of the jump. This enables grasshoppers to leap up to 20 times their own length. The higher range of an escape jump makes them land further away from nearby predators in a safer place.

The hind legs of a grasshopper push against the ground with both a high force and high velocity. However, muscles cannot contract with both high force and high velocity at the same time. To overcome this problem, grasshoppers have a catapult mechanism that increases the collective force produced by their muscles.

To prepare for an escape jump, a grasshopper contracts its large flexor muscles causing its hind legs to bend at the knee joints. There is a special cuticle located at each knee joint in the hind legs which acts like a spring and stores all the potential energy required to complete the jump.

After this moment, when the grasshopper relaxes its leg muscles, the stored energy in the spring-like cuticle bounces back and creates the force needed for the lift-off.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for can grasshoppers fly, then why not take a look at can praying mantis fly or grasshopper facts.

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Written by Sayan Adhikari

Bachelor of Fine Arts specializing in Fine and Studio Arts

Sayan Adhikari picture

Sayan AdhikariBachelor of Fine Arts specializing in Fine and Studio Arts

Sayan is a versatile content writer and visual artist, with experience creating content for various organizations. Currently pursuing a degree in Visual and Fine Arts from École Intuit Lab Design School, he has documented street life post-lockdown for the École Intuit Lab, showcasing his skills in illustration and photography. Additionally, Sayan has contributed to charities, such as the Tata Cancer Research Institute, and raised funds for the construction of a children's library in Mumbai.

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Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao

Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

Pradhanya Rao picture

Pradhanya RaoBachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

With a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Christ University, Bangalore, Pradhanya's passion for the English language and literature led her to explore the field of content writing, where she has gained extensive experience in writing, reviewing, editing, and fact-checking. She has also earned certifications in Google Ads Search, Google Ads Display, and Social Media Marketing, showcasing her proficiency in digital marketing.

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