Grasshoppers are known for having large appetites. In fact, swarming groups of them can destroy crops and fields. So, what do grasshoppers eat and drink, exactly? And just how much food can they eat in a day? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer these questions and more!
What You'll Learn Today
What Does the Grasshopper Eat Besides Grass?
You may think their name would suggest the kind of food they eat, but in reality, grasshoppers eat many types of plants in addition to grass.
There are numerous species of grasshopper, and most are generalist herbivores. This means they eat a wide variety of plant-based foods.
This is unique when compared with most herbivorous insects, which typically eat only one type or family of plants in order to diminish competition. That said, because grasshoppers eat so many different foods, they are at a much lower risk of dying out due to starvation.
Grasshoppers really aren’t picky. In addition to eating lots of different plants, they frequently eat all parts of the plant: leaves, stems, flowers, and seeds.
Some grasshopper species eat each plant fully before moving onto the next one. Other species graze from one plant to the next, eating only part of each plant as they go.
Though grasshoppers will eat many different plant foods, they seem to have a preference for green leafy plants. Some of their favorite foods include:
- Leafy greens: Many plants fall into this category, though grasshoppers seem to especially love lettuce. Other leafy vegetables they may eat include spinach, kale, and collard greens.
- Grains: Grasshoppers enjoy eating many different kinds of grains, including alfalfa, corn, rice, millet, wheat, barley, and oats. Not only do they eat the developing grains themselves, they also eat the leaves and stems, often leaving fields stripped bare in their wake.
- Cotton: Grasshoppers eat the leaves of mature cotton plants, though they will eat the entire plants when they are in the seedling stage. As a result, a large swarm of grasshoppers early in the season could destroy a young crop of cotton.
- Weeds and groundcovers: Grasshoppers will eat all different kinds of grass, as well as other weeds and groundcovers. Some of these include clover, smartweed, violets, dandelions, and plantain.
- Fruit: While eating leaves off of fruit trees and shrubs, grasshoppers sometimes decide to sample the fruit growing on those plants. They do best with softer fruits such as berries, cherries, grapes, peaches, and pears.
- Moss: Sometimes if other foods are hard to come by, grasshoppers will eat moss hanging from trees or growing in damp, shaded areas.
Check out this video of a grasshopper eating a leaf:
Do Grasshoppers Eat Other Insects?
Grasshoppers are primarily herbivorous, but they do occasionally exhibit carnivorous tendencies.
Some species of grasshopper may turn cannibal if food is scarce, eating other grasshoppers in the area. Though not all species will become cannibalistic, most will eat other kinds of insects if the only alternative is starvation.
Though they generally eat plants, grasshoppers are very resourceful and can eat lots of other foods if necessary. In addition to insects, some of these alternate food sources include:
- Fungi: Grasshoppers may eat various types of mushrooms as well as other fungi they find growing in their environment.
- Animal feces: If food is really scarce, they will stoop to eating animal droppings.
- Carrion: Sometimes grasshoppers will even eat bits of dead and decaying animals. Though this is fairly uncommon, it is not entirely unheard of.
How Much Do Grasshoppers Eat in a Day?
You’ve undoubtedly heard of swarms of locusts (grasshoppers in a colony) destroying entire fields of crops. These voracious creatures can wreak devastation wherever they go.
This begs the question: just how much can a single one of these grasshoppers eat in a day?
Grasshoppers eat a lot of food, anywhere from 30 percent of their own body weight to several times their weight. On average, each grasshopper consumes about 30 to 100 grams of food per day.
Again, the food they eat is mostly made up of plant matter. Young grasshoppers especially seem to prefer soft, easy-to-eat foods.
In general, they will always go for crops and other plants over grass if these more desirable foods are available.
What Do Grasshoppers Drink?
Grasshoppers generally don’t drink water, at least not intentionally.
Like all living organisms, they do need water to survive. But they are able to meet all of their own hydration needs from the foods they eat.
Most of the plants in a grasshopper’s diet contain a fair amount of water. The grasshoppers consume the water as they eat these foods, and they don’t have any additional water needs.
They may “accidentally” consume additional water while eating dew-covered plants, plants that have been rained on, or garden crops that have been watered. They “drink” the beads of water clinging to the plants as they eat them.
They may also get extra water when consuming plants near water sources, where higher humidity levels and abundant water may produce plants that are more hydrated.
However, grasshoppers don’t actively seek out water sources or wet plants. They simply eat what they can find and get all the water they need from these plants.
Grasshoppers eat many different kinds of plants, such as leafy vegetables, cotton, clover, corn, rice, fruit, leaves from trees, and grasses. If food is scarce, they may also eat animal droppings, fungi, and even dead animals.