Previously, we talked about the many different kinds of food grasshoppers eat; but have you ever wondered what animals eat grasshoppers? You might be surprised at just how many predators these large jumping insects have in the wild. Keep reading as we talk about the natural predators of grasshoppers and what grasshoppers do to avoid being eaten.
What You'll Learn Today
Is the Grasshopper a Predator or Prey?
Grasshoppers are primarily herbivores. They eat a wide variety of plant foods such as leaves, grass, corn, wheat, cotton, and even some fruit.
That said, they can also hunt and eat insects when food is in short supply. So, are they classified as predators or prey animals?
Grasshoppers are considered prey animals because they primarily eat plant-based foods and will only hunt if they are starving.
What’s more, they only hunt small insects and they have no particular method of subduing these creatures. Usually, they will pounce on their prey and hold on tight while they eat it alive.
Again, though, this is not their normal mode of operation. They most often eat plants and, for this reason, they are not really seen as predators.
What are the Natural Predators of the Grasshopper?
Grasshoppers can be extremely destructive of crops, especially when there are a lot of them that swarm together. Fortunately, most grasshoppers are solitary, and they have many predators in the wild to keep their populations under control.
Some of the animals that eat grasshoppers include:
- Mammals: Various mammals eat insects, including grasshoppers, to supplement their diet; this is especially true of nocturnal hunters, as grasshoppers are most active at night. Some mammals that prey on grasshoppers include bats, raccoons, hedgehogs, foxes, opossums, and mice.
- Reptiles: Various reptile species also eat grasshoppers as part of their diet. These include some turtles, ring-necked snakes, and many different kinds of lizards.
- Amphibians: Amphibians such as frogs and salamanders are some of the most common grasshopper predators. Their quick and sudden hunting actions allow them to grab the grasshoppers before they can hop to safety.
- Birds: There are many different kinds of birds, and the ones most notable for eating grasshoppers are blackbirds, bluebirds, blue jays, and certain types of hawks. Grasshoppers provide an excellent protein source for these birds, so they are a nutritious supplement to their diet.
- Insects: There are even a lot of other insects that eat grasshoppers, or that hunt them to feed to their larvae. Some of these insects include praying mantises, wasps and yellowjackets, beetles, ants, bee flies, and other types of flies.
- Spiders: Spiders are not technically insects, though they are often confused as such. There are a wide variety of spiders that will hunt and eat grasshoppers, and they will eat them at every stage of life (egg, nymph, adult).
- Humans: Grasshoppers are a popular food choice for humans in many parts of the world, such as Mexico, Uganda, and Thailand. They are full of protein and other nutrients, and many people find both raw and cooked grasshoppers to be a tasty snack or side dish.
As you can see from this list, grasshoppers really do have many different types of predators. Check out this timelapse video of a praying mantis eating a locust (social grasshopper):
How Do Grasshoppers Escape Predators?
Perhaps you’re wondering, if so many things eat grasshoppers, then how come they haven’t gone extinct yet? Do they have any special tricks or methods of avoiding predators?
Like most prey creatures, grasshoppers escape predators in a couple of ways: by simply running (or hopping) away once they’ve been spotted, and by hiding to avoid being spotted in the first place.
Grasshoppers are known for having powerful back legs that can launch them as much as 30 to 60 inches in a single jump. Many grasshopper species also have wings, allowing them to fly even greater distances.
They are quick, so if they are able to see the predator coming, they are typically able to jump or fly away in time. That said, many animals that prey on grasshoppers ambush them, attacking unexpectedly after silently stalking them.
Grasshoppers usually come in shades of green, brown, or tan. This coloring allows them to blend in with their surroundings.
If they can avoid being seen by prey animals in the first place, they have the best chance of survival.
During periods of food shortage, solitary grasshoppers may turn into social creatures more commonly called locusts, creating great swarms that can destroy an entire field.
When they are swarming like this, the sheer number of locusts gives them some protection against predators; even the most cunning animals would have to be desperate indeed to take on such a huge swarm of insects.
So, as you can see, even though grasshoppers have many predators, they have ways of protecting themselves as well.
Grasshoppers are prey creatures. They are hunted by a wide variety of animals and insects, including bats, mice, turtles, lizards, frogs, wasps, praying mantises, and spiders. That said, they are sometimes able to escape being eaten by jumping or flying out of harm’s way, as well as by blending into their surroundings to avoid being seen in the first place.
If you’re looking for more information about grasshoppers, check out this article about various sounds they produce.