Two Hoppers and Two Flies

Top photo: American bird grasshopper.

Insects are with us throughout the year whether as eggs, pupa, or in some species, adults. But it’s spring and summer when we start seeing them in numbers. Many of the adults that you’re seeing now have spent the cooler months safely tucked away and are just emerging as adults after an entire season below ground, embedded in wood, or in eggs cases attached to last year’s plant growth.

American bird grasshoppers (top photo) overwinter as adults but it’s not until spring that I start seeing them. They’re large grasshoppers and can be more than 2.5” in length. Most grasshoppers will hop or fly short distances when disturbed (not all grasshoppers can fly). Bird grasshoppers usually take flight and fly up into trees when they’re about to get stepped on by unsuspecting hikers. They do look some-what like birds when flying.

Bird grasshoppers eat grasses, herbs, and woody plant foliage (tree and shrub leaves). Look for them in fields, open woodlands and edges. Usually, your first clue a bird grasshopper is in the vicinity is when one quickly jumps up at your feet and flies away while you’re out walking.

At the other end of the spectrum is the pygmy grasshopper. Barely reaching 1/2 an inch these small hoppers are easily overlooked. I found the mating pair pictured here while they were atop a hickory leaf in riparian woods. Their typical habitat is mixed hardwood and pine forest, fallow fields and riparian woodlands.

Mating pygmy grasshoppers on hickory.

While down near the wetlands keep a lookout for golden-backed snipe flies which, according to the sources I checked, are common in wet, eastern forests. Spring is the time to find adults. Look down, they usually perch on low vegetation or the ground.

Golden-backed snipe fly (female).

Both adults and larvae of these half inch flies are reportedly predatory but according to some they don’t feed often as adults. The common name “golden-backed” derives from the golden setae on the fly’s thorax. I’m not sure of the origin of the name ‘snipe fly.’ I’ve read that it comes from the fact that some snipe flies have a long straight proboscis which superficially resembles the bill of a snipe, a widespread, native, inland shorebird with a long straight bill. I’m going to hold judgement on that

The warm weather and heavy rain of the past several weeks has brought out the crane flies. Most people freak out when they first encounter a crane fly. They look a lot like giant mosquitoes. Some species are over and inch long, not including their long and lanky legs. Luckily, they don’t and can’t sting or bite people or animals, nor do they carry diseases.

Crane flies mating on water’s surface.

There are about 1600 species of crane fly north of Mexico. Some lay their eggs in water, damp rotting logs, mud, or in the soil of your back yard. The larvae eat decaying organic matter, roots, or small aquatic insect larvae depending on the species and where it lives. The adults don’t feed at all, or simply sip nectar, again, depending on the species.

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