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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

U.S. Rangeland Grasshopper Collection

Insects: U.S. Rangeland Grasshopper Collection

U.S. Rangeland Grasshopper Collection

By James R. Fisher


U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Sidney Agricultural Research Center, 1500 N. Central, Sidney, MT 59270


To recognized institutions and scientists


200 volumes; 2,900 reprints; 70 systematic reprints

Number of

9,000 specimens; 270 species


2 paratypes


Jerome Onsager
Phone: (406) 482-2020, fax: (406) 482-5038

Home page


The U.S. Rangeland Grasshopper Collection contains short-horned grasshopper species from different habitats of the western United States. It is a major resource for the genus Melanoplus (fig. 16) from western North America; of 300 species worldwide, 72 are represented in the collection. This genus contains three of the most economically important species of grasshoppers in the New World.

Figure 16. Melanoplus sanguinipes, the lesser migratory grasshopper

Figure 16. Melanoplus sanguinipes,
the lesser migratory grasshopper. This
species is the most destructive
grasshopper in North America.

The 2,900 reprints in the collection's library are worldwide in scope and are primarily on Acridids. Much of the information is now historical, as articles have been continuously added since the start of grasshopper studies in Montana in the late 1920's. The library also contains an archive of correspondence pertaining to grasshopper abatement campaigns that took place between 1900 and 1950.


The collection was started in the early 1920's by Robert L. Shotwell and Steward Lockwood, who were employed by the Bureau of Entomology, U.S. Department of Agriculture, in Billings, MT. Most of the specimens in their collection were obtained in previous surveys throughout the United States by government entomologists. In 1930, the collection was moved to Montana State University. John R. Parker was in charge of the collection, and the laboratory became known as the Grasshopper and Mormon Cricket Laboratory. During this time, Fred Skoog and Louis Spain were the curators, and many specimens were added. In 1961, when the collection was moved to another building at the university, Frank Cowan was in charge of the laboratory. George Hewitt was responsible for the collection from 1970 to 1989. In 1987, the collection was moved to the library in the new Rangeland Insect Laboratory building on the campus of Montana State University. In 1996, the collection was moved to the Sidney Agricultural Research Center, in Sidney, MT, when the Rangeland Insect Laboratory in Bozeman was closed. Jerome Onsager presently serves as curator of the collection. Although the collection has grown slowly since the 1960's, it is used extensively in support of identification services, for historic range records, and as a voucher repository for scientists from the Rangeland Insect Laboratory and many other locations.


Identifications are made for Federal, state, and private research scientists and for others concerned with pest problems. The collection has been used to assist scientists in locating potential collecting sites for species used in research and is a source of specimens for taxonomic revisions. Information has been made available to movie producers for filming pictures with grasshoppers. In addition to the preserved specimen collection, the laboratory maintains colonies of several important species of rangeland grasshoppers. Live grasshoppers are used for active local research programs and to fill needs as requested by the pest control and motion picture industries, researchers within USDA, and other public agencies and institutions.


The Rangeland Insect Laboratory was located at Bozeman, MT, for over 65 years and was incorporated into the Sidney Agricultural Research Center in 1996. The laboratory is primarily responsible for developing management strategies for insect pests and weeds of rangeland and rangeland-associated agriculture throughout the western United States. The lab is staffed with 5 research scientists, 1 support scientist, and 14 clerical and technical employees. The major emphasis of the laboratory is on crop management of rangeland and rangeland-associated agriculture for the Northern Plains. Studies are performed on biological control (protozoa, viruses, and other pathogens) of insect pests and weeds, insecticide application and delivery, and soil dynamics and hydrology.


Performed first descriptive work on biology and control of Mormon cricket


Developed baits and tillage methods for control of grasshoppers on arable land in the Northern Great Plains

1940's to

Developed baseline biological studies on Melanoplus bivittatus and Camnula pellucida


Described a new species of Melanoplus (M. lanthanus) from Montana


Registered Nosema locustae as the first protozoan microbial insecticide in the United States


Developed an improved insecticide bran bait for use on rangeland grasshoppers


Developed Hopper, a decision support system for grasshopper management through a collaborative ARS-APHIS Grasshopper Integrated Pest Management Project


Developed national and state grasshopper detection and prediction maps with data from Geographic Information Systems and survey input from APHIS


Developed a DNA probe to detect entomopoxviruses and Nosema locustae in grasshoppers


Demonstrated that grazing management can directly affect the life history, phenology, and survival of rangeland grasshoppers


Developed a model for a major grasshopper pest that predicts hatching within a 10-day period

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Last Modified: 2/6/2002
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