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On the sex lives of bandwing grasshoppers

I know that our grasshopper levels are higher than desirable at present, but today I caught one of my favorite types. A bandwing grasshopper, as opposed to their slantface and spurthroat kin (our most economically damaging grasshoppers here tend to be spurthroats).

While beetles aren’t always the most discriminate of lovers… grasshoppers tend to be rather selective in their choice of partners.

Bandwing grasshoppers have showy courtship displays – males fly, preferably into a breeze, staying fairly stationary but bobbing up and down. As they do this, they make clacking noises with their wings (entomologists call them “crepitations“), and show off their bright wing colors. Here’s a great example video of this behavior.

Females come to admire the display and assess the performing male’s suitability as a sperm donor. Males, also attracted by the display, come and join in. After all, if other males are performing here, there must be some females nearby who might be interested in me!

If the performing male(s) are sufficiently impressive, and have the right wing color, and the right clacking sound, an interested female will respond in kind. She’ll fly up, clacking her wings, before landing near a suitable spot for romance.

On the ground she’ll make further investigation of her suitors – someone who looked appealing in the air might not on the ground. If not interested, she’ll hop away, and may raise her hind feet and brandish them threateningly at the suitor.

If, however, her meets her standards, there are a variety of come-hither beckons, which vary from species to species. Common variants include moving the hind legs up or down, to provide better access to the abdomen. There may also be chirping noises, leg-stamping dances, and stroking with antennae.

Mating time varies from less than half an hour to upwards of half a day, depending on the species.

While I know that my fondness for grasshoppers is thought a bit odd, the Judeo-Christian god had a soft spot for them as well. When I see grasshoppers arcing over the fields like breaking waves, I hear the words of Joel in my head, and think of how terrifying the lord’s army of grasshoppers can be. “Σαλπισατε σάλπιγγι ἐν Σιών!”

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