Today was Yard Waste Drop-off Day. As I was moving some bags of yard waste into the back of the van, I stumbled on these two grasshoppers when I lifted up the last bag.
The last thing you expect to find on a hot asphalt driveway is two grasshoppers enjoying a little Monday afternoon delight… but that’s what happened. Grasshopper Sex. Right on the driveway for all to see.
I urged the kids to suspend their basketball game. Partly out of respect for the grasshoppers, partly to seize the chance to educate them about grasshoppers.
After I took that first photo (with my iPhone), they hopped over to a nearby rock – never breaking position. Can you find them in the photo below?
Grasshoppers are in the order Orthoptera which also includes Locusts, Crickets and Katydids.
Turns out, these guys have an incredible ability to identify their mates. They sing to each other – stridulation -and basically dance around to get each other’s attention.
Apparently the males can have 400 mating songs to entice females. This behavior of wooing a mate via serenade is a defining characteristic for this group of insects.
Kristy Ambrose wrote an article on grasshoppers for eHow. She wrote that, “As a species, grasshoppers have many interesting and unusual habits. Many of these are used as part of the courtship ritual, to find and keep a mate. Grasshopper mating habits are as comical and varied as the species itself. Each has its own way of attracting and keeping a mate for the brief but torrid grasshopper mating season.“
Here’s a vido featuring a male grasshopper singing to get the attention of females. I think you’ll agree – it’s a familiar sound:
Grasshopper mating can last from about an hour to well over a day. So, nothing was going to break up this party – not even a crazy gardener taking pictures with her iPhone.
Btw, the females are bigger than the males. But, the males are brighter and prettier (to me). I love the markings on their legs.
Nature’s designs are so inspiring – these would make for a cool tattoo or henna design…
The male grasshopper is the one on top. And, as much fun as he is having now, I feel bad for him. Entomologists know he will die almost immediately after mating.
The lady grasshoppers live just long enough to lay their eggs (usually 8 – 25 eggs in a clutch).
On the biokids blog at the University of Michigan, they review the fascinating grasshopper egg laying process:
When they [the eggs] are ready, she pushes her abdomen down in the ground and makes a layer of foam. Then she lays the eggs. When the foam dries it forms a tough and waterproof eggpod, and protects the eggs until they hatch. They hatchlings climb up through the foam and out into the world. If they have enough food, and live long enough, each female can produce several egg pods before she dies.
What’s that? Not enough you say?! You want a joke, too?
So this grasshopper walks into a bar.
The bartender says to him, “Hey, do you know we have a drink named after you?”
The grasshopper says, “You have a drink named Ant?!?”
Sorry, couldn’t resist.