Wednesday, May 13, 2009


A recent grasshopper I have pinned is in the genus Schistocera, or bird grasshoppers. They are called bird grasshoppers because they are very large - this specimen is approximately three inches long, with a five inch wingspan. This species is common in Southern California, and were caught in Los Angeles County.

Orthoptera; Acrididae; Cyrtacanthacridinae; Schistocera nitens
Common Name: Gray Bird Grasshopper

The subfamily Cyrtacanthacridinae contains 12 species, and Schistocera is the only genus within the subfamiliy. Most of them are large and strong fliers. The name Schistocera comes from the Greek skhistos (σχιστος)- "split or divided" + kerkos (κερκος)- "tail". This genus includes the locust famous for swarming in Egypt, Schistocera gregaria. There was once a swarming locust of similar agricultural significance in North America, the Rocky Mountain Locust (Melanoplus spretus), but it was wiped out - possibly by farmers destroying its larval/egg/pupa stage by plowing the land. It is thought to have swarmed in the largest numbers known among animals: one swarm containing an estimated 12.5 trillion insects. In 1874, entomologists sighted a swarm that covered 198,000 square miles - greater than the area of California. At any rate, they are extinct since ~1905 and specimens can be found in glaciers, for the time being. However, that species was a member of the subfamily Melanoplinae, spur-throated grasshoppers, while the bird grasshoppers are in the subfamily Cyrtacanthacridinae, miagratory bird locusts.


  1. Genus Cyrtacanthacridinae? You mean subfamily?

  2. yes, yes...thanks. I did write subfamily once, and genus one - will correct.

  3. I live in Southern California too. I've seen those almost every day. One of the most recent was two weeks ago in Orange County at Knotts, by the "Rapids ride". A much larger one was spotted as I headed to the Mexican Village area of Knotts. One of the biggest I've seen was on July 13, 2005, in a now demolished public garden, about SIX inches in length--just the wings tapering off from the body was half the whole length. And a year ago I saw on the my driveway, about that size so big it caused my mother to say "what as THAT!" before I explained [I also mentioend the name, bird grasshopper.They sure EARNED it!]