Grasshoppers at the Hermits’ Rest

Last week’s Master Naturalist chapter meeting was fascinating. I’d asked Eric Neubauer, the new class member I’ve been working with on improving my iNaturalist observations, to do an advanced training on grasshoppers, since he’s been getting some great insights into them over on his property (PLEASE visit the link to his presentation if you have any interest at all in grasshoppers; it’s completely fascinating). He lives in a different part of the county than I do, and I realized he sees lots of different kinds of grasshoppers than I do.

This is Schistocerca americana, the American Bird Grasshopper. I wondered if we had any of these. Look at the striped eyes! Photo by E. Neubauer.

I did a blog post on grasshoppers at the ranch a couple of months ago, but now that I have learned more, I got some better photos and noticed some things about our grasshoppers. I was also wondering if there were any grasshoppers other than Boopedon gracile, the Prairie Boopie, which we’ve had in plague-worthy numbers all summer (hey, it’s 2020; everything’s a plague).

A female, we think, with some interesting coloration, according to Eric.

Yes, there are Prairie Boopies all over the ranch. The easiest place to find them is on the hay bales. They hold still there.

Another boopie view. Look at all the stripes and spots.

But, there are others. I kept seeing lots and lots of tiny grasshoppers (an inch long or less) hopping away as I walked along the fields. I wondered what they were. Could they be pygmy grasshoppers?

This one is very, very small. Less than half the size of the one above. But it’s an adult, judging by the fact that its wings are the same size as the one above. I know males are smaller, but this is really small.

I finally managed to get a couple of non-blurry photos. Well, what do you know? They are small adult Prairie Boopies (confirmed by Eric). Maybe they get smaller at the end of the season? The ones over by the hay are over three inches long, for sure. I also have noticed that the coloration is different now, after a month of drought. They are much lighter in color.

Who’s this fellow? Not a boopie. Look at the legs and the longer wings.

Moving along, I was delighted to find at least a little variety in the neighborhood. We also have a good number of Differential Grasshoppers (Melanoplus differentialis), which are the ones with the very distinct herringbone pattern on their legs. I was glad to get some good photos of those, too.

Differentials doing it on the hay.

I didn’t get a photo of this, but I did see a mating pair fly off yesterday evening. That was new to me. I guess those males are pretty strong, since the females are larger and do not fly!

Then, when staring at the hay bales, I saw something more green. Hooray! Not one of the more common two! I was admiring an Admirable Grasshopper! As Eric pointed out, I would know this one by its tear-shaped eye.

You really can’t miss that eye!

And finally, when I’d given up on finding anything more interesting, a very different shape appeared in the grave.

Yay! The bird grasshopper!

My photo isn’t as good as Eric’s, but I can see the stripe going through its eye, and knew I had a Schistocerca americana. The very long wings also tell you it’s a strong flyer, as the bird grasshoppers are.

I have one more of the smaller ones, but I don’t have its ID confirmed yet.

That’s the only good photo I got, but I know it was bright green on the sides.

I’m guessing it’s a small Admirable Grasshopper. We’ll see.

I know a lot of people are grossed out by grasshoppers, but once you start looking at them, they are really beautiful and interesting. Well, they are interesting IF you can see them. Check out this Nebulatettix subgracilis – if you can! I can’t believe Eric managed to find it!

That’s one fine camouflage

Too Much Right Now

There’s just so much in my head that I’ve no time nor ability to write. I was analyzing work stuff in my dreams last night. I couldn’t stop dreaming about data.

Hey, grasshopper, you’re supposed to distract me.

I’ve pushed through everything today, which is great, but there’s still more coming up! Being occupied with work challenges isn’t all bad, of course. It keeps your mind off the state of the world, sick friends, and natural disasters.

That’s really a cool color!

I did enjoy a lovely sunset last night after the wee bit of rain. And I reconnected with a friend from grad school whom I greatly admired and had thought about often.

Plus, I can disguise myself with even more masks, since I got some pretty ones in the mail. Guess I’m not a plain black mask person.

I’m blinding and blingy.

Hope you’re handling your surprises and learning curves today. We’re all in it together.

Spooky pretty.

Boop, Boop, Boopie, Boopedon

Prairie boopies are fascinating grasshoppers, really!

I figure I better follow up a review of a controversial with a discussion of a controversial natural object: the grasshopper. This is one of those love it or hate it topics. I seem to know an awful lot of people who are really wigged out at the appearance of a grasshopper (many in my own family). I have naturalist friends who are fascinated by them and know a LOT more about them than I do.

This being a big year for the hoppers, I thought I’d learn more about the ones here at the Hermits’ Rest, and I’ve been sharing some photos here and there, and did a post on their cool names. I am not able to get them by net (even though I keep saying I’ll buy one, I forget), so most of my photos are rather blurry, but I’ve had fun identifying them, with help from my expert friend Eric on iNaturalist.

Most of the grasshoppers you see around the ranch are boopedons, a name you just have to love. More on them later.

By the dark color and size, I now know this is a male.

I did find a really pretty grasshopper (if you think they can be pretty) with a cool name over by our church office on Friday. These are the Obscure Bird grasshoppers (Schistocerca obscura). The stripes on their backs and the dots on their legs make them very striking.

Back at the ranch, today I went on a hunt, and only found one grasshopper-like insects that weren’t Boopedon (to be precise, the prairie boopie, the best name ever), a katydid.

It turns out that male and female prairie boopies (Boopedon gracile) look very different, so what I’d thought was a different species, was, indeed, just a female of the same species. I learned this when I FINALLY found a detailed article on them.

I also learned that “Prairie boopies are typically found in dense grasses, including prairies, rangeland, and savanna habitats. In Oklahoma, this species was reported to be more abundant in overgrazed prairies than natural ones.” (This is from Grasshoppers of the Western US, a really interesting site.) I’m happy to know they aren’t officially classified as pests (unless you hate grasshoppers, I guess).

Anyhow, as I went about observing away, I realized the front field was a like a sea, with little bobbing boopie boats on it.

Every brown thing you see is a grasshopper. Bobbing boopies.

Then I noticed that they were very fond of the nightshade plants next to the driveway.

Twelve boopies jumped off this plant when I took another step closer.

I quickly realized these grasshoppers are at the height of adulthood. Most of them were mating. They don’t need privacy (being grasshoppers). You can see how different the female looks in this picture.

That’s four of them. And do you see why I am annoyed all the rain skirted us today?

As I walk along, I tend to send boopies flying away (but only males, because I just learned the females are flightless!). Here’s video proof. Warning: I think I sing. Lucky for you it’s only 35 seconds long.

Other than how hard these guys feel when they hit me as I drive Hilda, I’ve gotten fond of these guys. Both Vlassic and the chickens love to eat them, and at the moment I don’t have any tender plants they will kill.

It’s been fun watching them grow, and I guess somewhere out there will soon be a lot of grasshopper eggs. I’ll have to look those up next…sigh, no I won’t. I’m crushed: “Little is known about the reproduction of prairie boopies” (from the above web link). Well, we have plenty of them here, even though they apparently aren’t often found in high densities (I beg to differ).

I’d call that a high density.

I guess I’ll be booping along now. That’s all I know about the prairie boopie. I lie. They are also known as the graceful range grasshopper, and were identified by Rehn in 1904.

I bet I’d get an A on this report in high school. (Get me away from the keyboard.)

Grasshopper Names Are Majestic

Not much is going on this weekend. I had two good rides on Apache, and Sara helped me figure out the last thing I needed to keep progress going, which was shorter reins.

Showy grasshopper

Other than that, I’ve been watching summer insects. I’m still trying to get better photos. Perhaps I should try the real camera again.

Differential grasshopper

I did get some reasonable photos today, when looking at a friend’s garden.

Maybe a ponderous spur-throat

As I uploaded them to iNaturalist, I was thoroughly entertained by the common names of the grasshoppers. They are so creative and grand. Here are some names:

Admirable grasshopper

Ponderous Spur-throatedgrasshopper

Differential grasshopper

Devastating grasshopper

Barbarian grasshopper

Wrinkled grasshopper

Boopedon (my favorite)

Prairie boopie

Plains lubber grasshopper

Grizzly Spur-throat grasshopper

Two-striped slant-faced grasshopper

Obscure grasshopper

What cool names, huh? Maybe I’ll find some of these. And maybe someone will help me ID them.

Differential or devastating?

Texas, Where Almost Everything Bites

Today I have a hodgepodge of stuff to share, but first I want to talk about what’s lurking around the ranch these days. That would be things that bite, and things that jump. Yesterday, I went to sit down on one of the front-porch rocking chairs, when I saw something on the seat.

A member of the widow spider family.

I am very glad she was pre-dead, and that I saw her before I sat. Certainly it confirms my habit of checking for creatures before plopping down anywhere around the Hermits’ Rest! I’m not sure what kind of widow spider she was, but I don’t want any of them biting me. These are the main reason I continue to support having pest control come around the house.

The second reason is scorpions, which I haven’t seen any of, but Lee and Kathleen have killed a few. I love them out in the woods, but not in the house. And I love the spiders, but not ones that could really mess with my health.

I’ve apparently become allergic to mosquito bites, and they make huge welts, so I could do without those right now, too. And biting flies! Argh. There are black flies around here, and horse flies (thankfully not around ME), and deer flies. Whatever. One of them bit me on my FACE this morning. That could have to do with how much poop we have at the ranch

Nonetheless, I am heartily enjoying discussing different kinds of flies and grasshoppers and stuff with Eric in our Master Naturalist class. He not only has good eye for finding them, but he has a good camera, and the patience to work hard to identify them.

Eric wrote me an email today about the coolest thing he saw (a “mystical experience,” in his words), which was he was trying to photograph a large grasshopper:

It jumped off the path into the high grass and when it landed it appeared to turn into at least a dozen tiny projectiles which flew off in all directions like a firework. A closer look uncovered a great concentration of grasshopper nymphs in the area.

Eric N., email 6/6/2020

Of course, he didn’t get a picture, but WOW, what an image!

My grasshopper experience this morning was also something you couldn’t photograph. I was walking back from horse riding (it went well), noticing that it’s definitely grasshopper season. Then I noticed the sound. As I walked, I was disturbing dozens and dozens of them (small ones, since they aren’t adult yet), and my walk seemed to have a rhythm section accompanying it. Tap, tap, tap, tap, tap-tap-tap.

I k now a lot of people don’t like grasshoppers (like my sister), and I admit they are annoying in the summers when there are hundreds pelting me as I drive the utility vehicle. At least they don’t bite often or hard. But they are so varied and interesting. I have an AWFUL time photographing them, so I think I’m going to get a good butterfly net soon, so I can get some to hold still.

What Doesn’t Bite?

Roaches. Secretly, I have never been fond of roaches, due to childhood trauma, but I am doing better since I started doing iNaturalist. I recently even found one I thought was interesting to look at. It also lived outdoors, where it should.

Fairly attractive pale-bordered field cockroach

And non-venomous snakes don’t bite humans, often anyway. So, I was sad to see this one in the road this morning. Rat snakes are my buddies as long as they aren’t eating my hens’ eggs.

Poor snakey got hit by a car.

Okay, time to go see what’s outside that will hurt in some other way…

Is Everything Dead Yet?

This time of year, it’s usually looking pretty bleak out here in central Texas. By now, the grass is usually very brown and crunchy, and there are good-sized cracks in the soil. But this year it’s rained a lot more than usual, so how’s it doing?

Checking out the territory. Some green, some not.

It hasn’t rained in a couple of weeks, and that’s about all it takes to turn things back to their typical summer state. Sure enough, the grass is crunchy and the cracks are out. But the tanks (ponds) have lots more water in them than usual and the creek has plenty of water in it.

The Vrazels have made another bunch of hay out of our front pasture, which is also unusual. They are out there baling it right now, making round bales. The dogs enjoyed having a couple of days to look for vermin in the piles of grass as it was drying out. Both Vlassic and Penney like to pounce.

Future hay, full o’ vermin.
Continue reading “Is Everything Dead Yet?”