Bug of the Week

Bunchgrass Locust (Family Acrididae)


Greetings, BugFans,

Periodically, the BugLady comes across a really spiffy “bug” in between episodes and issues a BugBonus. Today’s Bonus Bug is the Short-winged Bunchgrass Locust/Grasshopper (Pseudopomala brachyptera), also known as the Short-winged Toothpick Grasshopper.

Fig 1: Bunchgrass Locust
Fig 2: Bunchgrass Locust
Can you spot the locust in this habitat shot? A grass-hugger.

Taxonomically, they are located in the Short-horned Grasshopper family, Acrididae, which BugFans have visited before in the form of the Carolina locust and the Red-legged grasshopper/locust. Physically, they are found on poor soils, sand prairies, weedy roadsides and forest edges in a range that stretches through the Great Plains and southern Canada from north Texas to Idaho, east through the Great Lakes states and New England. Their populations tend to be “local” – found in small pockets of large areas – and both their numbers and their range may be increasing with recent droughts. These individuals were photographed in a restored prairie at the UWM Field Station.

Fig 3: Bunchgrass Locust
Fig 4: Bunchgrass Locust
A female short-winged bunchgrass locust A male short-winged bunchgrass locust

Their head shape causes some people to mistake them for walking sticks, and the technical term for their wild-looking antennae is ensiform (from the Latin enis – sword and related to the Sanskrit asi, also meaning sword). Males tend to be a bit darker in color and longer-winged then females. Their short wings render them non-migratory but didn’t hinder them from getting out of the BugLady’s way pretty smartly. They like scooting around to the opposite side of the grass from the camera.

Fig 5: Bunchgrass Locust
... hiding

The BugLady