Grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and locusts

Grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and locusts are all members of the order Orthoptera. They can be found all over the world, inhabiting a wide range of habitats, including deserts, forests, and grasslands.

Orthopterans have a distinctive body shape, with long legs and wings designed for jumping or flying. They are mostly herbivorous, eating plants, but some are omnivorous or even carnivorous. They have powerful mandibles for chewing and can cause significant damage to crops and vegetation.

Australia is home to a diverse range of Orthoptera species, including some unique and interesting ones:

King cricket (Diamantispa stuhlmanni) is one of the world’s largest and heaviest crickets, with males reaching up to 10 centimetres in length. They are also well-known for their loud, deep calls, which can be heard from up to 500 metres away.

Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera): This species of locust is found throughout much of Australia and is known for its swarming behaviour, which can cause significant damage to crops and pastures. The locusts can consume their body weight in vegetation each day and can form swarms of up to one billion individuals.

Raspy cricket (Cooraboorama raspy): This species of bush cricket is found in central Australia’s arid regions. It is known for its distinctive raspy call, which can be heard up to 100 metres away. The raspy bush cricket is also a poor jumper, relying on camouflage to avoid predators.

Giant burrowing cockroach (Macropanesthia rhinoceros): This cockroach is found in the tropical forests of northeastern Australia. It is one of the world’s largest cockroaches, with females reaching up to 8 centimetres in length. Unlike most cockroaches, the giant burrowing cockroach lives in deep burrows in the soil and feeds on plant material.

The ability of Orthopterans to produce sounds by rubbing together specialised structures on their bodies, such as wings or legs, is one of their most distinguishing characteristics. This sound production is used for individual communication, attracting mates, and warning off predators.

Orthopterans go through incomplete metamorphosis, which means they hatch from eggs into nymphs that look like miniature adults and go through a series of moults before reaching adulthood. Many species’ males engage in elaborate courtship behaviours, such as singing and stridulation, to attract mates.

Some Orthopterans, such as locusts, can change phases in response to environmental cues, resulting in swarming behaviour and large-scale migration. This has the potential to have a significant impact on agriculture and food security in affected areas.

Straight winged insects are members of this order because their narrow membranous fore wings (elytra) are usually laid flat along the sides of the body, covering the fan-shaped hind wings that are folded up beneath them. In some families, we find groups or individuals with rudimentary wings or wings so modified in structure that they are useless for flight, and in a few cases, perfect insects of one or both sexes are wingless. In some, such as grasshoppers, the hind legs have highly developed thighs that are well adapted for springing or jumping; in Mantids, the two hind pairs of legs are simple, but the front pair is produced with curved, spined tibiae and femora that are well adapted for capturing their prey. The mouth parts consist of a rounded upper lip with two stout mandibles and a pair of jaws to which are attached jointed, the labriim or hind lip bearing similar appendages called the labial palpi; in addition, they have a stout spade-shaped tongue so that they can bite off and chew their food.

Though the majority of insects are vegetarians, one group, the mantids, is carnivorous, and the mouth parts of these insects are produced into a sharp point to the tip of the jaws.

They hatch from eggs that are deposited singly or in groups in or on the ground, or attached to the twigs of their food plant; as baby insects, they are similar to adults, going through a series of moults without a true pupal stage, until they emerge with fully developed wings and reproductive organs in the final moult.

The Orthoptera order includes a diverse range of insects, including some of the insect world’s titans, such as stick and leaf insects. Overall, Orthoptera is a diverse and fascinating order of insects, with a wide range of ecological roles and behaviours. They play important roles in the ecosystem as both predators and prey, and their interactions with crops and vegetation have a significant impact on human societies.