Grasshopper Boom

The combination of an unusually wet spring and an extended summer have produced a grasshopper boom in Colorado. Right now the trails and sidewalks are literally hopping with grasshoppers. Apparently we can blame climate change.

The abundance of grasshoppers still enjoying the fall with the rest of us made me wonder what happens to them in the winter. As it turns out, all those grasshoppers are currently enjoying their “golden years.” Like katydids, the adults will not survive the cold winter. They have, however, laid eggs. In late summer, female grasshoppers deposit their eggs in leaf litter or soil. She covers them in a sticky substance that sets and forms an egg pod. Females may lay as many as 25 pods depending on species.  Each pod contains dozens of rice-shaped eggs and is resistant to moisture and cold that will survive the winter.

When the eggs do hatch in the spring, after about 10 months, they emerge as nymphs which look like mini versions of the adults. The difference at this point is that they lack wings and reproductive organs. Over the coming weeks the nymphs will molt several times ultimately developing into full-fledged adults looking for a mate to start the whole process all over again.

There are more than 10,000 known species of grasshoppers in the world, living on every continent except Antarctica. They are also among the oldest insects on Earth, having evolved more than 200 million years ago.