Grasshopper Life Cycle
There are 548 species of grasshoppers in North America. Most species follow this general description of their life cycle.
A grasshopper's life cycle starts with the egg. The female grasshopper will lay fertilized eggs in midsummer under 1 or 2 inches of sand or leaf litter. The female covers the eggs with a sticky substance that forms an egg pod around the eggs. Each egg pod can contain 15 to 150 eggs depending on the species. The female grasshopper may lay up to 25 pods. The egg pods will remain dormant through the autumn and winter. In the spring and early summer, the eggs will hatch into nymphs, the next stage in the grasshopper life.
Nymphs look similar to adult grasshoppers except they lack wings and reproductive organs. Newly hatched nymphs are white and after exposure to sunlight, they assume the distinctive colors and markings of adults. They will undergo five to six sub-stages known as instars before fully developing into adult grasshoppers. During each stage of molt, the nymph sheds its exoskeleton and gradual grow wings. Nymphs start to feed on soft plant foliage within one day of hatching from the egg. These stages occur over a five to six week time period before the young nymphs mature to adult grasshoppers.
Adult grasshoppers have fully developed reproductive organs and will begin breeding. The males will fertilize the female and then she will begin to lay eggs. The female continues to lay eggs at intervals of three to four days until she dies. Adult grasshoppers may live for about two months, depending on the conditions and the weather.
Locusts are grasshoppers that exhibit “swarm” behavior. They are defined as several species of short-horned grasshoppers that have both solitary and swarm, migratory phases. Weather conditions play a role in the development of swarms. These species, with suitable conditions, breed rapidly and become nomadic in the nymph and adult stages.
This photo shows the Spotted Bird Grasshopper nymphs at various stages feeding of Hops Trees in the park. To view photos of a nymph molting, visit this gallery, Grasshopper Life Cycle.