Grasshopper, cricket & groundhopper species
found in the UK
Grasshoppers and bush crickets are two sub-families in the order Orthoptera. In the UK we have 23 species of cricket and 11 species of grasshopper, including a few exotics that have been accidentally introduced. Only eight of these occur regularly in Scotland in the wild. They are among what is probably the most ancient living group of chewing herbivorous insects.
All species do not undergo complete metamorphosis; they hatch from an egg into a nymph or ‘hopper’ which undergoes five moults, becoming more similar to the adult insect at each developmental stage.
Sound is extremely important to these creatures, especially for the purposes of courtship, and it is how they communicate among the tangle of vegetation where they often reside. The call of every species is unique. If you hear them in daytime it’s probably a grasshopper, as they are diurnal, if it’s dusk it will most likely be a cricket, which are crepuscular.
Grasshoppers are mostly herbivorous, so you’ll see them on grass and other vegetable matter. Of the 11 grasshoppers in Britain, all but one of them able to fly. The one that can’t is called the meadow grasshopper (Chorthippus parallelus) whose hind wings are stunted.
Grasshoppers stridulate by rubbing their long hind legs against their wings. Grasshoppers have their ‘ears’ at the base of their abdomen
Behind their head they have prominent saddle-shaped structure called the pronotum (a plate that covers the top and sides of the thorax) and the markings on this can help to distinguish some species.
Bush crickets can be distinguished from grasshoppers by their larger body size (up to 5 cm in length) and their very long antennae. Females have a distinctive sword-like ovipositor at the tip of the abdomen which they use for laying eggs inside vegetation.
Bush crickets stridulate by rubbing their wings together. Crickets have their ‘ears’ on their front legs.
From the family Tetrigidae, are represented in Britain by 3 species of groundhopper.
They can be found where there is less grass than would suit the grasshoppers, and are often found close to ponds and streams. In fact, many of them are good swimmers!
These insects look like small grasshoppers but their pronotum extends back to cover the abdomen, and the forewings are reduced to small scales. The common groundhopper (Tetrix undulata) cannot fly, but most groundhoppers can fly well, because of their well developed hind wings.
Groundhoppers mainly eat mosses and algae, and they survive the winter as young nymphs.