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Bug Week

Project

Grasshoppers

Every one of our ORANGE AND BLUE! bugs has a great “look,” by virtue of the fact that they sport our UF school colors.

But this next example, a female orange-winged grasshopper (Pardalophora phoenicoptera), may just be the BugWeek Web Team’s favorite.

For the most part, it’s a mottled gray and green, which is an attractive pattern all by itself and perfect camouflage for blending in with the environment where this species is usually found — open spaces with plenty of vegetation. The color pattern of the males tends to be a subtle mix of grayish browns — not as pretty as the females, but still designed for camouflage in fields, forest clearings, roadside areas, and the like.

And then there’s that unexpected burst of bright blue running up the inside of the femur and immediately giving way to bright orange running down the inside of the tibia, completely blowing the grasshopper’s cover and begging the question, “why?”

If you’ve already checked out the ORANGE AND BLUE! item on the atala hairstreak, your first reaction might be to ask, “is this an example of warning coloration?”

Yes, apparently so. And you should be grateful for that warning. When threatened or captured, the orange-winged grasshopper will vomit up a foul-smelling liquid meant to give any predator second thoughts.

That’s a common tactic among grasshoppers including the band-winged grasshoppers, the particular group this species belongs to. They’re part of the order Orthoptera, and the family Acrididae. The band-winged grasshoppers constitute a distinctive subfamily, Oedepodinae.

The band-winged grasshoppers are so named because their wings feature a colored band (in this case, black) that runs along the trailing edge of the hind wing and a contrasting color (in this case, orange) further forward.

As a group, the band-winged grasshoppers are strong fliers and often make a rapid-fire buzzing or snapping sound when they take to the air.

The orange-winged grasshopper is usually seen from early spring through mid-summer in North Central Florida.

Unlike some band-winged grasshoppers, the orange-winged grasshopper is not considered a pest, because it feeds on wild plants and generally has no economic impact on plants that people cultivate.

In fact, the only drawback we see with this species is that it’s devilishly difficult to get more than a glimpse of their orange-and-blue coloration, because this species will blast off like a missile before a curious human can get close to one.

Here’s a document from the UF entomology department that describes all 13 of the band-winged grasshopper species found in Florida.

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