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Field Guide to Common Western Grasshoppers: Glossary

by Robert E. Pfadt

List of Species Fact Sheets (60 Species)



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(Note: Clicking on a link to view a figure will open a new window. Please close the window to return to the Glossary.)


Abdomen. The hind region of the insect body consisting of nine apparent ringlike flexible segments in the grasshopper (Fig. 1).

Absolute density.  The number of individual grasshoppers per unit of area, as square yard, square meter, acre, or hectare.

Accidentals. Adult grasshoppers in locations where the species does not complete its life cycle.

Acrididae. A family of insects that comprise the grasshoppers with short antennae, short ovipositor, and tarsi of legs three-segmented.

Aedeagus. The intromittent or insertion organ of the male genitalia (Fig. 8).

Allotype. A paratype specimen of the opposite sex to the holotype used in making the original description of a species.

Alpine tundra.  Vegetation in montane habitats above treeline.  Vegetation consists of perennial forbs, grasses, sedges, and short woody shrubs.

Anal area of tegmen. Hind or posterior part of tegmen (Fig. 7).

Annulus. A colored or light circular band.

Antenna (pl., antennae). Pair of segmented appendages (feelers) located on head and sensory in function (Fig. 1).

Anterior. Pertaining to the front of the body.

Apex. The terminal or distal part of a body structure.

Appetitive flight. Local movement by flight concerned with finding food, mates, and egg laying sites.

Apterous. Without wings.

Arcuate. Arched or humped.

Arolium. A padlike structure at the end of the insect leg between the claws (Fig. 6).

Arthropoda. A group or phylum of animals that have segmented bodies, exoskeletons, and jointed legs.

Articulate. To connect by a joint.


Bandwinged grasshoppers. A subfamily of grasshoppers, the Oedipodinae, that usually have a submarginal dark band on the hindwings (Fig. 7).

Basal. At or near base of a structure.

Bilobate. Divided into two lobes.

Bioclimatic law.  Hopkin's bioclimatic law states that for every rise in elevation of 400 feet, events in the life cycle are delayed four days.

Biotic potential. The inherent properties of an organism to survive, reproduce, and increase in numbers.

Blastokinesis. Active movement of the grasshopper embryo by which it passes from the ventral to the dorsal side of the egg and at the same time revolves 180 degrees on its long axis.

Blowout. An area of renewed wind erosion in a sand dune stabilized by vegetation.

Brachypterous. With short wings.

Brood. All the individuals that hatch at about one time from eggs laid by one series of parents and that normally mature at about the same time; a group of individuals of a species that have hatched into young or have become adult at approximately the same time, and live together in a defined and limited area, and they may be of different generations.


Calcar. A spinelike process of the integument connected by a joint (Fig. 6).

Carina (pl., carinae). An external ridge of the integument (Fig. 4).

Carinula (pl., carinulae). A little carina or ridge (Fig. 6).

Center of distribution. The circumscribed area of habitats in which the species is almost always present and where dense populations regularly occur.

Cercus (pl, cerci). An appendage of the tenth abdominal segment usually triangular and short in grasshoppers (Fig. 8).

Chevrons. A pattern of V-shaped markings in one direction on the medial area of the grasshopper’s hind femur.

Chorionic sculpturing. A network pattern on the chorion (shell) of the insect egg.

Cladode.  A flat leaflike stem.

Clavate. Clubbed, having a thickened or expanded distal end (Fig. 2).

Clypeus. The front liplike sclerite on which the labrum articulates (Fig. 3).

Complete metamorphosis. Metamorphosis through which the insect develops by four distinct stages: egg, larva, pupa, adult.

Compound eye. An eye made up of many individual eye elements each represented externally by a corneal facet.

Concave. Hollowed out like the interior of a sphere segment.

Convex. Like the outer curved surface of a sphere segment.

Costal. Referring to the anterior portion of any wing (Fig. 7).

Coxa. Basal segment of insect leg articulating leg to body (Fig 6).

Cristate. Having a prominent carina or crest.

Crown.  The perennial tissue of grasses, sedges, and forbs located near the soil surface from which all roots, herbaceous stems, and leaves grow. 

Curate. To mount, label, store, and protect museum specimen.


Day-degrees. The degrees each day that the average daily temperature is above a threshold temperature for development. For each day that a process takes to complete, these degrees are totaled to yield the day degrees required for the process such as egg incubation or nymphal development.

Deme.  A local population of a species.

Density.  A measure of abundance in terms of average number of individuals per square yard, square meter, acre, or hectare.

Diapause. A state of low metabolic activity mediated hormonally and associated with ceased growth, reduced activity, and increased resistance to environmental extremes.

Dipterous.  Of or relating to flies of the order Diptera.

Disk of pronotum. Central upper surface of pronotum (Fig. 4).

Disk of wings. Central area of hindwings within the margins or within the submarginal band when present (Fig. 7).

Dispersal.  Outward spreading of grasshoppers from their place of origin.

Dispersion.  The spacing of individuals in the habitat. 

Distal. That part of an appendage farthest from the body.

Distribution. The location of all habitats in which the species lives and reproduces; the area in which the species has been recorded.

Distribution center. See center of distribution.

Dominant.  With reference to grasshoppers, most abundant species in an assemblage of grasshopper species. 

Dorsal. Pertaining to the top surface of the body.

Dorsal bask.  The behavior of a grasshopper to increase body heat by aligning their dorsum (back) perpendicular to rays of the sun.

Dorsal posture.  The position of the body taken in basking by a grasshopper so that the dorsum or back is directly exposed to the sun. 

Dot map.  A map showing by dots the locations where individuals of a species have been found and recorded.


Eclosion. The hatching of the larva or nymph from its egg.

Egg pod. A case made of grasshopper gluelike secretions and soil particles enclosing a clutch of grasshopper eggs.

Emarginate. Notched.

Ensiform. Broad at base, narrowing to tip (Fig. 2).

Epiproct. A triangular dorsal plate of the eleventh abdominal segment overlying the anus (Fig. 8).

Epizootic.  A disease contracted by a large number of animals in a population. 

Erratics.  Grasshoppers that have dispersed into a habitat in which they are unable to complete their life cycle and reproduce. 


Family. A taxonomic category including one genus or a group of genera of common phylogenetic origin.

F1 generation.  The generation of hybrids arising from a first cross.

Fasciate. Banded.

Fastigium. The front part of the top of the head in front of the compound eyes (Fig. 3).

Femoral stripe. The dark stripe running along the dorsal medial area of the hind femur of a grasshopper.

Femur (pl., femora). A segment of the insect leg; the stout segment of the grasshopper’s hindleg (Fig. 6).

Ferruginous. Resembling iron rust in color.

Filiform. Threadlike, slender and of equal diameter (Fig. 2).

Flank bask.  The behavior of a grasshopper to increase body heat by presenting a side perpendicularly to rays of the sun. 

Flanking posture.  The position of the body taken in basking by a grasshopper so that a side is directly exposed to the sun.  Concomitantly, the associated hindleg is lowered to expose fully the abdomen. 

Fledge. Acquisition of the adult wings.

Forb. Broadleafed herbaceous plant (e.g., dandelion).

Foveola (pl., foveolae). A small depression in the integument.

Frons. Front of the head above the clypeus (Fig. 3).

Frontal costa. Broad vertical ridge on the front of the head (Fig. 3).

Furcula. Forked projection from posterior edge of tenth abdominal tergum and overlying supraanal plate (Fig. 8).

Fuscous. Color of dark brown approaching black.


Griseous. Light color mottled with black or brown.

Gena. The sclerite at the side of the head (Fig. 3).

Gene. A unit of heredity on a chromosome in the cell nucleus.

Gene pool. The total genes of all the individuals of a species in a population.

Genitalia. The external reproductive structures (Fig. 8).

Genus. A taxonomic category containing a group of related species.

Geographic range. The area bounded by the location of outlying populations of a species; the location of the smallest area within an imaginary boundary line that encloses all populations of a species.

Geophilous.  Living on the ground.

Gomphocerinae. A subfamily of grasshoppers known commonly as slantfaced grasshoppers.

Gradual metamorphosis. Metamorphosis through which the insect develops by three distinct stages, namely egg, nymph, adult.


Hindwings. The fanshaped membranous second pair of wings of grasshoppers (Fig. 7).

Hirsute. Hairy.

Holotype. The single specimen designated as the "type" by the author of the original description at time of publication.

Hyaline. Transparent and glassy.


Imago. A name for the adult insect.

Immaculate. Without spots or marks.

Incrassate. Thickened or swollen usually near tip.

Insecta. The insects; a class in the phylum Arthropoda in which adults have three body regions, head, thorax, and abdomen; three pairs of legs; and a respiratory system of air tubes or trachea.

Instar. The immature insect between two successive molts.

Invertebrate. Animal without spinal column or backbone.


Keel. A sharp, enlarged ridge or carina.

Key. A tabular arrangement of species, genera, families, etc., according to characters that serve to identify them.

Knee. The enlarged end of the hind femur (Fig. 6).


Larva (pl., larvae). The immature insect hatched from the egg and up to the pupal stage in orders with complete metamorphosis, e.g., a caterpillar.

Lateral carinae. The carinae at the lateral edges of the pronotal disk (Fig. 4) or of the vertex of head (Fig. 3).

Lateral foveolae. A pair of small depressions on the head at the side or front of vertex (Fig. 3).

Lateral lobe. The vertical sides of the pronotum (Fig. 4).

Litter.  Plant material that falls and accumulates on the soil surface. 


Maculate. Spotted.

Macropterous. With well developed long wings.

Medial. Situated in or closest to the middle.

Median area of tegmen. The middle part of tegmen (Fig. 7).

Median carina. Any ridge set medianly on an insect part, such as the pronotum or head of a grasshopper (Fig. 4).

Melanistic.  Blackish due to increased amounts of black pigment.

Melanoplinae. A subfamily of grasshoppers commonly known as the spurthroated grasshoppers.

Mesosternal interspace. The area between the mesosternal lobes (Fig. 5).

Mesosternal lobes. The paired separated posterior areas of the mesosternum (Fig. 5).

Mesothorax. The middle segment of the thorax (Fig. 1).

Mesosternum. The ventral plate of the mesothorax between and in front of the middle pair of legs (Fig. 5).

Metamorphosis. The change of body form through which insects pass in developing to the adult.

Metasternal interspace. The area between the metasternal lobes (Fig. 5).

Metasternal lobes. The paired separated posterior areas of the metasternum (Fig. 5).

Metathorax. The hind segment of the thorax (Fig. 1).

Metazona. The posterior part of the pronotal disk, lies behind the principal sulcus (Fig. 4).

Migration.  Mass movement of grasshoppers by walking or flying. 

Molt. Process of shedding outer layers of the integument.


Nodulate. A surface sculpturing of small knots or swellings.

Notum. The dorsal part or top of a thoracic segment (Fig. 1).

Nymph. An immature insect of species with gradual metamorphosis.


Occiput. Top of head behind the compound eye.

Ocellus (pl., ocelli). The single-faceted simple eye of an insect. A grasshopper has three ocelli, two lateral and one median (Fig. 3).

Outer margin of wing. The margin between apex and anal angle of the grasshopper hindwing (Fig. 7).

Oedipodinae. A subfamily of grasshoppers known commonly as bandwinged grasshoppers.

Orthoptera. An order of insects with gradual metamorphosis, chewing mouthparts, and leathery forewings. Order includes grasshoppers and crickets.

Ovipositor. In grasshoppers the paired digging and egg laying structures at the end of the female abdomen (Fig. 1).

Ovipositor valves. Three pair of digging and egg laying structures at the end of the abdomen in female grasshoppers (Fig. 1).


Pallium. The membrane stretching across the walls of the subgenital plate and covering the male genitalia (Fig. 8).

Paratype. A specimen other than the holotype that was before the author at the time of preparation of the original description and was so designated by the author.

Pellucid. Transparent whether clear or colored.

Preapical. Before the apex.

Pleuron (pl., pleura). The side sclerites of the thorax.

Posterior. Pertaining to the rear of the body.

Pottering. Intermittent walking and wandering with frequent changes in direction.

Predominant.  Of grasshoppers, the most abundant species in an assemblage of grasshopper species.

Preferendum.  The range of temperature at which the grasshopper comes to rest.

Preoviposition period. The period between molting to the adult and the laying of the first group of eggs; in grasshoppers the period normally lasts one to two weeks.

Principal sulcus. The hind sulcus cutting the median carina of the pronotum (Fig. 4).

Pronotum. The saddle-shaped top of the first thoracic segment (Fig. 1).

Prosternal spine. A protuberant process of the prosternum located between bases of front legs (Fig. 5).

Prosternum. The lower or ventral surface of the prothorax.

Prothorax. The front segment of the thorax (Fig. 1).

Proximal. That part of an appendage closest to the body.

Prozona. The anterior part of the pronotal disk, lies in front of the principal sulcus (Fig. 4).

Pupa (pl., pupae). The stage between the larva and the adult in insects with complete metamorphosis; a nonfeeding stage in which adult structures develop and grow.


Quadrate. Resembling a square or rectangular space.


Relative density.  With reference to grasshoppers, the number caught per certain number of sweeps with an insect net or caught by hand or seen in a given period of time. 

Ruderal. Growing along roadsides or in disturbed or abandoned farmland.

Ruga (pl., rugae). A wrinkle.

Rugose. Wrinkled.


Sclerite. A hardened body wall plate of insects delimited by sutures or membranous areas.

Seasonal cycle. The timing of the periods of egg hatch, nymphal development, adulthood, and reproduction.

Shoulder. The lateral angles of the metazona of the pronotum (Fig. 4).

Sibilant.  A hissing sound. 

Slantfaced grasshoppers. A subfamily of grasshoppers, the Gomphocerinae.

Spatulate. Round and broadened apically, spoon-shaped.

Species. A kind of organism. A genetically distinctive group of natural populations that share a common gene pool and are reproductively isolated from all other such groups.

Spine. A thornlike outgrowth of the integument not separated from it by a joint (Fig. 6).

Spur. A spinelike process of the integument connected by a joint (Fig. 6).

Spurthroated grasshoppers. A subfamily of grasshoppers, the Melanoplinae, that bear a conspicuous process (spine) on the prosternum (Fig. 5).

Sternite. A subdivision of a sternum.

Sternum. The ventral part or bottom of a thoracic or abdominal segment (Fig. 5).

Stadium (pl., stadia). The time period between two successive molts of larvae or nymphs.

Stridulate. Making a creaking or grating sound by insects through rubbing two rough surfaces against each other.

Stridulatory pegs. A row of small pegs on the inner surface of the hind femur of certain grasshoppers (most slantfaced species) (Fig. 6).

Styliform. Long and slender.

Sub-. Latin prefix meaning under; almost or somewhat.

Subarcuate. A little arched or bowed.

Subdominant.  The grasshopper species of lesser abundance than the dominant one in an assemblage of grasshopper species.

Subesophageal ganglion. Three fused ganglia located in head below digestive tract innervating the mouthparts.

Subgenital plate. In the male grasshopper the terminal ventral plate underlying the genitalia (Fig. 8).

Submarginal band. The dark band usually present on the hindwings of species of bandwinged grasshoppers (Fig. 7).

Subspecies.  A geographically defined aggregate of local populations which differs from other such subdivisions of a species.

Sulcus (pl., sulci). A groove or furrow in the integument.

Supraanal plate. A triangular dorsal plate of the eleventh abdominal segment overlying the anus (Fig. 8).

Suture. A linelike groove in the integument.

Swale.  A depression where soils are deeper and finer textured than on surrounding upland and water availability is greater. 


Tarsus. The segmented foot of an insect; three segmented in the grasshopper.

Tectate. Roof-like, sloping from a peak.

Tessellate. Mosaic or checkered.

Tegmen (pl., tegmina). The leathery, narrow, nearly parallel sided forewings of grasshoppers and other Orthoptera (Fig. 7).

Tergum. The dorsal and lateral surface of an abdominal segment (Fig. 8).

Testaceous. Brownish yellow.

Thorax. The middle body region of an insect between the head and the abdomen (Fig. 1).

Threshold. The temperature or level of hormone concentration that must be reached before development or growth can begin.

Tibia (pl., tibiae). The long, slender segment of the insect leg (Fig. 6).

Tracheal system. The respiratory system of insects that consists of internal airfilled tubes.

Trapezoidal.  A figure with four sides. 

Trochanter. A small segment of the insect leg located between the coxa and the femur (Fig. 6).

Truncate. Cut off squarely at end.

Tympanum. The membrane covering of the auditory organ.

Type. The single specimen that bears the name of the species and from which the species was described.


Vagility. Capacity to disperse.

Valves of ovipositor. Three pair of digging and egg laying structures at the end of the abdomen in female grasshoppers (Fig. 1).

Veins. The riblike tubes that strengthen the wings of insects.

Venation. The entire system of veins of an insect wing.

Ventral. Pertaining to the undersurface of the body.

Vertex. Top of head between the compound eyes.


Wing pads. The developing wings found on nymphs.

Wings. The hindwings of Orthoptera.

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