Monday, March 12, 2012

Pink grasshopper!

 Photo: Kristen Lauer

One nevers knows what one might find upon checking their email, and to my delight, yesterday it was this astonishing beast. Kristen Lauer, who lives in Dayton, wandered into her backyard prairie patch the other day and was stopped in her tracks by an animated jot of neon pink. Fortunately, she was able to capture the animal, take it inside and obtain some photos.

Kristen works as the Education/Information Specialist at the Montgomery Soil & Water Conservation District (friend her on Facebook RIGHT HERE!), and had attended the inaugural Midwest Native Plant Conference in Dayton in 2009. That year, Cheryl Harner brought the original Pinky the pink katydid to the conference, and was displaying the extraordinary creature in a terrarium. Kristen had seen the odd chartreuse katydid there, and knew upon spotting this grasshopper that she had made a noteworthy find.

 Photo: Kristen Lauer

This animal is a newly emerged nymph - note the tiny wing "buds". If all goes well for the grasshopper, it will eventually molt into an adult with fully developed wings, and it'll be interesting to see if it retains its veneer of shocking pink.

 Photo: Kristen Lauer

I do not know grasshoppers very well, especially when they are in their nymph stages, and even more especially when they are an unnatural shade of day-glo pink. That said, I wonder if this "pinky" is one of the species in the genus Melanoplus, which includes our very common and widespread differential grasshopper, M. differentialis. I think that at least some of these species, which overwinter as eggs, hatch very early in the year and nymphs can be found by now.

Photo: Kristen Lauer

For a brief description of what causes pinkness in animals - a condition known as erythrism - CLICK HERE. Erythrochroic animals seem especially well represented in the Orthoptera, which includes katydids and grasshoppers.

Kristen is keeping the pink katydid, and it is living large in vegetated quarters free of any of the myriad enemies that can do in a critter like this. It'll be interesting to see how its growth progresses. I'll keep you posted if there are any updates, and thanks to Kristen for sharing her find!


flux biota. said...


Wil said...

Now that is one cool looking grasshopper. What a great find. I am stumped at the moment as to the ID. I will look again later.

zippiknits said...

It's beautiful. Thank you for sharing the info about the morphism and the photos.

Jim McCormac said...

This helpful comment posted on behalf of Carl...

Hi, Jim,

After about 20 frustrating attempts to comment on your post (the filter’s failing to recognize correctly typed words in its robot detector), I thought I would write to you directly. The ridge through the grasshopper’s eye reminds me of another group, the band-winged grasshoppers. The earliest singing insect in northeast Illinois, the greenstriped grasshopper (Chortophaga viridifascitata) overwinters as nymphs and is displaying by late April or early May.


Carl Strang
Office of Education - Mayslake
Forest Preserve District of DuPage County

Jim McCormac said...

Vince Lucas brought this pink grasshopper to the attention of Dr. John Capinera of the University of Florida, a leading expert on the Orthoptera. Below are John's interesting comments. Thanks for your efforts, Vince!

Hi Vincent: this pink coloration shows up among green katydids ocassionally, but I've never seen it among grasshoppers. If this is a recent photo, it likely will mature into Chortophaga viridfasciata, though hard to tell from the immature stage. I hope it will survive the attention, John

John L. Capinera
Professor and Chairman
Entomology & Nematology Department
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida 32611-0620

Anonymous said...

i have caught a pink grasshopper too! i will try to find the photos.