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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Migratory Grasshopper - Melanoplus sanguinipes

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: SNR

Agency Status

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General Description
The following is taken from Hebard(1928), Helfer (1971), Vickery and Kevan (1985), Pfadt (2002), Capinera et al. (2004), Capinera and Sechrist (1982), Schell et al. (2005), Brust et al. (2008),
and Scott (2010). This medium sized grasshopper is dark grayish-brown tinged with reddish dorsally and yellowish ventrally. The wings (tegmina) are long, extending beyond the abdomen tip and spotted centrally. The hind femur usually has two oblique dark bands on the upper and outer faces. The hind tibia is usually red, but can vary to blue, buff, or yellowish.

The Migratory Grasshopper is an early hatching species. Nymphs occur in mid-May to mid-June, and adults are found from mid-June through October, sometimes into early November (Capinera et al. 2004, Capinera and Sechrist 1982, Pfadt 2002, Schellet al. 2005, and Scott 2010).

Diagnostic Characteristics
The following comes from Hebard (1928), Helfer (1971), Vickery and Kevan (1985), Pfadt (2002), Capinera et al. (2004), Capinera and Sechrist (1982), Schell et al. (2005), Brust et al. (2008), and Scott (2010). The male body length is 18 to 26 mm, and females 20 to 29 mm. Ventrally, there is a distinctive bump or lobe at the center of the thorax between the front and middle legs. The subgenital plate of the male genitalia is strongly notched at its apex.

Can be confused with Bruner's Spur-throat, (M. bruneri). Examine male genitalia for comparisons and positive identification. Also, similar to the now-extinct Rocky Mountain Grasshopper, (M. spretus).

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
The Migratory Grasshopper has a broader geographic range than any other species of Melanoplus. Found throughout the United States, all Canadian provinces, and into southern Alaska. In Montana, it is common and abundant in all 56 counties (Capinera and Sechrist 1982, Capinera et al. 2004, Pfadt 2002, and Scott 2010).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 71

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)

The following comes from Capinera and Sechrist 1982, Capinera et al. 2004, Pfadt 2002, and Vickery and Kevan 1985. Inhabits a wide variety of habitats from sea level to mountain elevations up to 8800 feet. Common in grasslands, meadows, and weedy areas. It has adapted well to western agricultural lands. The introduction of weeds, plowing of prairies and overgrazing of rangelands have created especially favorable habitats. Plowing of sandy soils resulting in wind-blown drifts have furnished favorable egg-laying or oviposition sites.

Food Habits
The following comes from Vickery and Kevan 1985, Pfadt 2002, Capinera and Sechrist 1982, Capinera et al. 2004, and Schell et al. 2005. The Migratory Grasshopper is an omnivorous species with a preference toward a large variety of forbs, grasses, wheat, barley, and other crops. It also scavenges upon ground litter, dead insects, and dried manure. During outbreaks this species consumes just about all plants including trees and ornamentals, and small grains at all growth stages.

Reproductive Characteristics
Taken from Capinera and Sechrist 1982, Capinera et al. 2004, and Pfadt 2002. At high population densities, a behavioral change occurs in the Migratory Grasshopper wherein they become more gregarious and begin moving as a group. Bands of the older nymphs, third to sixth instars, may migrate as far as 5 to 10 miles, travelling at a rate of 0.1 mile per hour. Adults are highly migratory. Swarming occurs on clear days when temperatures approach 80 degrees F with gentle, intermittent winds. The grasshoppers usually begin flights in late morning, fly during mid-day, and alight in the afternoon to feed and rest. They fly at about 10 to 12 miles per hour, covering about 30 or more miles per day. Flights have been designated as “low” (<25 feet) or “high” (>25 feet), although research programs have recorded “high flights” up to >1000 feet.

Considered one of the most destructive grasshoppers to grasslands, rangelands, and can become a serious agricultural and suburban pest. It is generally more destructive in dryland areas than in irrigated areas (Capinera and Sechrist 1982, Capinera et al. 2004, Pfadt 2002, and Schell et al. 2005).

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Citation for data on this website:
Migratory Grasshopper — Melanoplus sanguinipes.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from