Grasshoppers and crickets

By David Chapman

Late summer is the best time of year to watch and listen to grasshoppers and crickets


Meadow grasshopperMeadow grasshopper

These wonderful creatures have always amazed me with the ability that some have to jump huge distances and most have to create their ‘song’.

Grasshoppers and crickets belong to the order of insects known as 'Orthoptera'. Around the world there are over seventeen thousand different species of Orthoptera of which just thirty occur in Britain, these are split into the two families known as grasshoppers and crickets. These two families can be distinguished from each other by the way in which they make their song, the time of day during which they are active, some of their physical features and their diet.

Most of these insects are small and well camouflaged so they have developed a range of sounds with which to attract a mate. Their 'song' must be familiar to us all but they don’t create it through their mouth parts instead they rub two parts of their body together, a process known as stridulation, and though different species rub different body parts the effect is the same. One of the two surfaces has a row of 'teeth', known as stridulatory pegs, the other surface is stiff and the effect is like that of running your finger nail along a comb.

Grasshoppers tend to be more active during sunny spells and rub their long hind legs against their forewings to sing. Many crickets are crepuscular, so they sing at dawn and dusk rubbing their wings together to create their song, a sound which tends to be higher pitched than the grasshoppers.

The two families differ in their choice of diet. Grasshoppers are exclusively vegetarian, whereas crickets are omnivores eating other insects as well as vegetative matter. Another feature which helps to distinguish between the two types of insect is the length of the antennae; the antennae of crickets tend to be much longer than those of grasshoppers. Female crickets have one more feature which sets them apart from the other Orthoptera and that is an obvious blade shaped ovipositor at the rear with which they push their eggs into vegetation or sometimes into the ground.

Gardens can be valuable refuges for Orthoptera. In general areas of long grasses are best for grasshoppers, which like to hop away from danger, and shrubby areas are better for crickets, which tend to crawl into thickets for safety. Many grasshoppers have quite well-developed wings with which they can fly but the meadow grasshopper, Chorthippus parallelus (pictured), which is the commonest grasshopper in Britain is our only flightless grasshopper since it has forewings but no hindwings.


  • Glow worm

    The glow worm

    Glow worms really are intriguing creatures and it is well worth having a look in your garden at night to see if you have any as garden guests.

    Read on

  • Large red damselfly female

    Large red damselfly

    Writer and photographer David Chapman introduces us to these delicate winged beauties

    Read on

  • Elephant hawkmoth

    Elephant hawk moth and caterpillar

    August is a good time to spot the extraordinary-looking caterpillar of the elephant hawkmoth.

    Read on

  • Bumble bee

    The bee

    Award-winning nature writer and photographer, David Chapman, on the story behind the headlines about disappearing bees

    Read on

  • The angle shades moth likes to rest on autumnal foliage. Photo by David Chapman

    The angle shades moth

    A particularly beautiful species that can be seen in every month of the year with peaks in spring and autumn.

    Read on

  • Male emperor moth © David Chapman

    The emperor moth

    With a wingspan of up to 9cm and an ornate wing pattern of colourful eye spots, this is a moth not to be missed.

    Read on

  • The privet hawkmoth by David Chapman

    Wildlife watch: the privet hawkmoth

    Our largest resident moth can be spotted on the wing during June and July.

    Read on

  • Platinum thumbnail

    Platinum credit card

    Low rate and 0% foreign currency fees on transactions.



Type your comment here

 characters remaining.

Grasshoppers and crickets

Late summer is the best time of year to watch and listen to grasshoppers and crickets

Saga Magazine

£3 for 3 issues

For more fascinating stories and insightful articles, why not try Saga Magazine for just £3 for 3 issues.

Saga Magazine e-newsletter

Sign up to our free newsletter today

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for all the latest recipes, gardening tips, prize draws, interviews and more delivered to your inbox every Friday.