By Garry Rogers
Arizona Grasshoppers and other Singing Insects
Grasshoppers, Crickets, and Katydids are familiar to everyone, but there are few records of distribution and conservation status. This report includes a partial checklist for Arizona grasshoppers. Grasshoppers are members of the Orthoptera, one of the most familiar insect orders. Orthoptera includes two suborders: Caelifera (grasshoppers and relatives) and Ensifera (crickets, katydids, and gryllacridoids).
The katydid in the photo is probably Greater Angle-wing Katydid (Microcentrum Rhombifolium). It is common in central Arizona where I live. According to the BugGuide website, the similar California Angle-wing (Microcentrum californicum) also occurs in central Arizona. The two are distinguished chiefly by their songs.
Most singing insects are herbivores. Their occasional population explosions can reduce farm profits, and have led to emphasis on eradication. Protection deserves more consideration. Orthoptera are all important biomass recyclers, and all serve as essential sources of food for other animals. Use of insects for human food is growing in popularity. As the human population continues to swell, the proportion experiencing the culinary delights of bug dinning will grow. We have to wait to see if grasshopper ranches arrive before textured soy protein replaces sirloin.
Orthoptera suffer from habitat loss just as other species groups do. Farms, roads, and buildings are concentrated in valleys near lakes and streams. The selective destruction of natural habitats in these more productive areas alters the size and composition of insect populations. These changes reduce ecosystem diversity, stability, and productivity. The references listed in the Singing Insects of North America website and in the list below are a good place to start to learn more about the ecological importance of these insects.
Many of the 400 grasshopper species known to occur in the western U. S. may be present in Arizona, but in the time available to prepare this report I could only verify 59 species from the USDA fact sheets (USDA and Pfadt 2002) and 35 from the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD–October 2013) website. The list is almost certainly incomplete, and it probably contains outdated names.
I compiled the list from the range maps on the website of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the October 10 species list by AZGFD. The USDA fact sheets include maps, photographs, and the natural history of each species. The Bug Guide provides additional information.