Red-legged Locust (Melanoplus femur-rubrum)

Red-legged Locust (Melanoplus femur-rubrum)

The Red-legged Locust (Melanoplus femur-rubrum), also called Red-legged Grasshopper is an insect in the Short-horned Grasshoppers Family (Acrididae) and order Orthoptera. The species name is Latin for "red femur". The genus name is from the Greek for "tool." The family name is the Greek for "grasshopper" although this insect is a locust that many entomologists like to differentiate from grasshoppers. The order name is from the Latin for straight and narrow wings.

This insect is from ¾ inch (1.8 centimeters) to one inch (2.54 centimeters) long with antennae about half as long as its body and long rear legs. The body color can vary from brown to yellow-green to reddish brown. The hind tibiae are bright red and yellow on the front with black spines towards the rear. This coloring is distinctive. The hind femora have a yellow and brown herringbone pattern like many grasshoppers. The wings have brown spots. The male and female can be differentiated by the characteristic that the male's fore and hind wings extend beyond the tip of the abdomen.  The specimen shown in the picture above is a female. It eats foliage and is found in open woods or fields.  After mating, the female will deposit her eggs in soil. The eggs hatch in the spring. The female lays several sets of eggs per year in masses of about 20 eggs. This species of locusts occasionally pose a threat to crops but not like the locusts of Biblical stories. However, they do transmit poultry tapeworms.  The locust plagues of the nineteenth century  in the west of the United States were caused primarily by a close relative of the Red-legged Locust (Melanoplus femur-rubrum), the Rocky Mountain Grasshopper (Melanoplus spretus), which is thought to be extinct. The Red-legged Locust (Melanoplus femur-rubrum) is found only North America and Mexico. 

 

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