Speckled Rangeland Grasshopper

5th instar of  Speckled Rangeland Grasshopper

This is another insect that I found in the Opal Natural area, in the same habitat as the tiger beetles. This wee chap was very cryptic in the dry leaf litter: you would see a movement as it jumped, and it would promptly disappear when it came to earth. It is only because I was already on my knees photographing tiger beetles that I managed to spot this one as it landed in the sand nearby.

In answer to my request for ID, Dan Johnson, Professor of Environmental Science and the Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Grassland Ecosystems at the University of Lethbridge provided the following information:

There are 9 species of grasshoppers that overwinter in active stages and appear early in the spring in Alberta.  This one is a fifth-instar “speckled rangeland grasshopper”,  Arphia conspersa.  After a few more days of sun, it will have red and black wings, and will make a snapping noise when it flies. They are all out flying early in April if the spring has been warm, but in a cool year they fly around May 1. The immature stage can vary in colour from tan to charcoal, and can even be pastel pink or blue.  Later in the year, it might be confused with the Carolina grasshopper, but note the notch in the pronotum of that species: http://people.uleth.ca/~dan.johnson/dcar.htm

Also available at his site is a Grasshopper Guide¹, available for download as a pdf.

¹ Johnson, D.L. 2008. Grasshopper identification & control methods to protect crops and the environment. Published by the Saskatchewan Pulse Growers, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Pesticide Risk Reduction Program, Pest Management Centre, Ottawa. 42 pp.

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  1. Ted C. MacRae 27 April, 2010 at 9:08 AM #

    I love the snapping noises those things make.

    • Adrian Thysse 28 April, 2010 at 5:28 AM #

      One of the sounds of summer when walking through exposed areas here. It coincides with the crackle of the heat on a hot summer’s day.

  2. biobabbler 27 April, 2010 at 9:18 AM #

    Great photograph! Thanks so much for the references, ’cause I have take photos over the years (including a burly dark one just above the tree line at Mount Rainier) of grasshoppers, and have no clue re: what they are.

    • Adrian Thysse 28 April, 2010 at 5:24 AM #

      Thanks Babbler! There are more ID resources on the BugWeb page above.

    • Dan 20 May, 2010 at 10:09 AM #

      You might also find the photos in this short guide useful. It covers two dozen common species on the Canadian Prairies and Northern Great Plains. The book is for non-specialists – it was requested by a crop production group (Pulse Growers). The PDF is available under “Grasshopper Guide”, here:


      (The maps and other information were part of a test run of some weather-related studies.)


  3. biobabbler 23 May, 2010 at 3:50 PM #

    Thanks, everyone. =) Now I’m going to try and ID a damselfly that was strangely cooperative last week.

  4. Dan 20 March, 2011 at 9:47 AM #

    Here is a non-technical photographic guide to some key species. The book was requested by lentil growers, so covers cropland and areas nearby, mainly.




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