It’s the middle of summer, and the air is filled with a variety of insect sounds. Have you ever wondered which insects are producing which sounds? Specifically, you may be curious about grasshoppers. Do grasshoppers make noise like crickets? What do grasshopper noises sound like? How do they make these sounds, and why? Keep reading as we dive in and answer all of these questions!
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Do Grasshoppers Make Noise?
Grasshoppers belong to the order Orthoptera, along with other insects such as crickets and katydids. These insects are known for the distinctive noises they produce throughout the summer months, and grasshoppers are no exception.
Grasshoppers make various types of noises for several reasons. The noises produced sound a little different from species to species, though they are generally described as high-pitched chirping or scraping sounds.
Check out this video to get an idea of different grasshopper sounds you might hear:
The males are responsible for the majority of the noises grasshoppers are known for. Females typically don’t produce noises except during times of courtship, and sometimes not even then–it depends on the species.
Only a small range of the sounds grasshoppers can produce are audible to humans, so these insects most likely communicate more than the average human realizes. It takes highly specialized scientific equipment to be able to observe the full scope of these sounds.
Using this specialized equipment, scientists have found out that grasshoppers use a range of musical notes when singing for potential mates. The males tend to compete with each other to see who can sing the most elaborate songs to attract mates, and the females “sing back” by mimicking the songs they like best.
How Do Grasshoppers Make Noise?
As mentioned above, grasshoppers make different types of noises. They produce these noises in two distinct ways:
Stridulation is a fancy way of saying that the grasshopper moves one body part against another to produce a scraping sound. This is similar to how an instrumentalist might produce music by moving a bow across a violin or cello.
Most grasshoppers scrape a back leg across a wing. Their legs are hard and barbed, and when they move the leg over the more lightweight wing, it causes the wing to vibrate and produce sound.
Some grasshoppers produce their sounds by moving one wing across the other. In this case, ridges on the wings drag against the more papery parts of the wings, producing vibrations that sound like chirping or scraping.
Some species of grasshopper produce sounds by crepitation, which means they produce crackling or snapping noises with their wings. This sound is created when the papery membranes between the veins of the wings snap tight.
Crepitation noises are most often produced during mating rituals, when the males and sometimes the females engage in special “courtship flights.” This practice is most often observed among the subfamily of band-winged grasshoppers.
Why Do Grasshoppers Make Noise?
We’ve talked about the sounds grasshoppers make and the methods they use to make them; but you may still be wondering, why do they make these noises in the first place?
As mentioned above, there are several reasons behind the noises a grasshopper makes. Grasshoppers may sing their songs to:
- Attract a mate: This is perhaps one of the most common reasons grasshoppers produce sounds. Male grasshoppers of many species produce elaborate chirping, scraping songs, and females often respond by mimicking the sounds of the mate they like best.
- Protect their territory: Grasshoppers also make noises to protect their territory and warn potential intruders to keep out. They are solitary creatures except during the mating season; may produce furious chirping or scraping sounds if another male grasshopper gets too close, as well as to warn away other types of insects they don’t want around.
- Warn of danger: If a predator enters the area, a grasshopper may produce noises to alert other grasshoppers of the threat. They may produce such noises out of surprise or alarm as they attempt to escape from the predator.
Like their cousins, the crickets and katydids, grasshoppers produce a variety of noisy sounds that fill the air throughout the summer months. These sounds may vary from species to species, but they generally consist of high-pitched scraping or chirping sounds. Grasshoppers most often produce these sounds by scraping their back legs against their wings.
If you’re looking for more information about grasshoppers, check out this article about their eating habits.