What do Grasshoppers Eat?
Grasshoppers are a type of insect with long hind legs that can leap high into the air and fly. When you look at one of these strange bugs, you might find yourself asking, "What do grasshoppers eat?" It may not be readily apparent, as grasshoppers have a set of fierce-looking mandibles, or teeth, on the exterior of their faces, but grasshoppers are actually strict herbivores. Even though they aren't dangerous to humans, the diets of grasshoppers are still very important for people to understand. When there are too many grasshoppers in one area, they transform into locusts and can swarm across entire continents, gobbling up every farmer's crop in their path and causing millions of dollars in damage.
What do Baby Grasshoppers Eat?
Grasshoppers hatch out of eggs, like all insects, and go through several different stages before becoming adults. Baby grasshoppers are called nymphs and begin life looking like very small, bright green grasshoppers. You can tell a baby grasshopper from an adult from its size, its lack of wings and because its body will be much more compact than an adult's. When they have just hatched, nymphs can't move very far and have to eat whatever plants are around them. They prefer small, tender plants that they can digest easily, like clover, grass or fresh shoots.
As grasshopper nymphs grow older, they undergo a process called molting, where they shed their old skin and emerge bigger and stronger. Their mandibles grow too, and as the grasshopper ages it is able to start eating tougher plants. A young grasshopper soon moves on to grasses and other foods preferred by adults of their species.
What do Adult Grasshoppers Eat?
Once a grasshopper nymph molts for the final time, it becomes an adult and is able to fly, reproduce and chew through nearly anything. Grasshoppers' favorite foods are plants in the grass family such as corn, wheat, barley and alfalfa. They aren't picky, however, and can eat many other types of plants. It's not uncommon to see grasshoppers chewing on the leaves of a tree, and more eating the grass beneath it. They are able to digest even the driest plants thanks to special chemicals in their stomach and saliva, which can break down the carbohydrates they use for energy.
Grasshoppers are one of the few animals able to change their appearance in response to environmental pressures like overpopulation. Normally, grasshoppers are solitary creatures and try to avoid each other. When they feel other grasshoppers rubbing up against their legs, it triggers a special chemical that makes them grow larger, eat more, lay eggs faster and migrate in groups. The hungry locusts can form swarms made up of trillions of bugs, traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles and eating any plant they come across. They have been known to destroy whole fields of crops in Africa, leading to widespread famine throughout history. In fact, the eating habits of grasshoppers were so important to ancient societies that plagues of locusts are mentioned several times in both the Bible and the Quran.
What Can I Feed My Pet Grasshopper?
Most grasshoppers never become locusts, though, and can even become fun and easy pet. If you have found a grasshopper, keep it in a jar with some air holes punched into the lid. Give your pet a few twigs to stand on and jump between, and you will also need to provide it with some tasty food to eat. What do grasshoppers eat in captivity? The good news is that the answer is basically anything. Lettuce or other leftover vegetables make for a delicious treat, but you should also include blades of grass and leaves from shrubs and trees. With the right care, you can watch your grasshopper grow into a full-sized adult and live a happy life, free from predators and with a constant supply of its favorite plants to eat.