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Grasshoppers in Saskatchewan

By Kaeley Kindrachuk, B.App.Sc., TechAg, Crops Extension Specialist, Outlook

July 2021

Grasshopper on wheat.
Grasshopper on wheat.

Grasshoppers are members of the insect order, orthoptera. Some of the characteristics of this order are generalist mouthparts, jumping legs and incomplete metamorphosis or no larval stage. Orthoptera are then divided into two sub-orders. The first, ensifera includes crickets and the second sub-order are caelifera which are grasshoppers and grasshopper-like species. Many of the ensifera are omnivores with some herbivores. The caelifera are primarily herbivores with about 11,000 species worldwide and about 85 species in western Canada.

Only three to four (sometimes five) of these 85 species are actually pest species so most of what we have in Saskatchewan are non-pest species. Some features of non-pest grasshopper species can be identified if they have wings before late June, “wings in the spring, not a pest,” or if they have brightly-coloured hind wings.

The pest species fall under three broad groups and only two are of major importance. They all have short antennae. Spur throated grasshoppers have a characteristic “spur” on their throats. Their face is vertical or only slightly slanted and the top of their head is rounded. The three main species are the migratory grasshopper, packard’s grasshopper and the two-striped grasshopper.

The migratory grasshopper’s distinguishing feature is the hind legs which are marked with two black bands. These are omnivores and prefer forbs, grasses, wheat, barley and other crops. They overwinter as eggs which hatch in May starting along open south slopes, in fields and rangeland with little vegetative cover and in sandy soils. The young grasshoppers can go through five nymphal stages in 35-55 days.

Packard’s grasshopper is one of the largest species we have. What is characteristic to this species is the two light coloured stripes that extend from just behind the eyes but don’t continue down the wings. They prefer open habitat and light textured soils. They prefer legumes, but will also consume vegetables and small grains. They also overwinter as eggs which hatch from May to June and have five nymphal instars as well.

The two-striped grasshopper is another large species that is distinguished by the two pale stripes extending from the eyes to the tip of the forewings. This species prefers lush habitat and heavier textured soils. They prefer lush foliage, including many of the weed species found in marshes and roadside ditches. They are a pest of alfalfa, cereals and other crops. These also overwinter as eggs. The eggs start to hatch about eight to 10 days ahead of the migratory grasshopper. This species displays migratory behavior of both nymphs and adults as they invade from field edges.

Banded-winged grasshoppers can be pests as well but only one of the species, the clear-winged grasshopper, is typically a problem. This species primarily feeds on grasses. They are yellow to brown, have mottled forewings and transparent hindwings and light stripes that converge. They have a characteristic camouflage pattern on their hindwings. They also overwinter as eggs and nymphs can be seen in May or June. Lack of soil moisture impairs the development of this species. Hatchlings emerge in the morning when temperatures are rising rapidly, especially after a shower the previous evening.

Slant-faced grasshoppers are considered pests, but are only occasionally damaging and never broadly. They are usually found along the borders of marshes and in wet meadows. This species is very diverse so sometimes they can be found in dry, grassy fields and pastures. They primarily feed on rangeland grasses and sedges.

The 2021 forecast was relatively low for most areas of the province, but there may still be areas of the province that could see high numbers of these insects. Producers are still encouraged to scout each field and be aware of economic thresholds in each crop. Cooperators are still needed so surveyors can access fields for the 2022 survey.

For more information and to see various photos of these species:

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