Chortophaga viridifasciata (DeGeer)
Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 912
Species Fact Sheet
by Robert E. Pfadt
Geographic range of Chortophaga viridifasciata
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The greenstriped grasshopper ranges widely in North America and extends
southward into Central America. Inhabiting lands dominated by midgrasses,
it is more prevalent in grass meadows and slopes of the eastern United
States than in the extensive western prairies. Its distribution is
patchy in the western region, as the species usually occupies small
areas that receive additional moisture by overflow or by subirrigation.
Patches of western wheatgrass growing in swales, around ponds, and
along streams are preferred habitats of this grasshopper. It also
inhabits stands of smooth brome under irrigation or located adjacent
to irrigated crops and lawns.
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Because of its usually low numbers and patchy distribution, damage
by the greenstriped grasshopper to rangeland forage is minimal and
In the eastern United States, where it is one of the most abundant
and widespread species, it may cause some damage to pastures and
hayfields. Records of its presence in fields of red clover and tobacco
indicate it may become a minor pest of these crops. However, its
food preferences suggest it may actually be feeding on weedy grasses
that have invaded these crops. Of medium size, males of the greenstriped
grasshopper collected in eastern Wyoming average 177 mg and females
607 mg (live weight).
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The greenstriped grasshopper feeds mainly on grasses with a preference
for succulent plants. Because of its wide distribution, it undoubtedly
feeds on many different species of grass, but the only information
available on host plants comes from a few localities.
In southeastern North Dakota, where the species inhabits shortgrass
areas of the sand prairie, it feeds chiefly on Kentucky bluegrass
(44 percent). Additional host plants include foxtail barley, western
wheatgrass, quackgrass, little bluestem, junegrass, needleleaf sedge,
Penn sedge, and a forb, European sticktight. In the shortgrass prairie
of northern Colorado, ten adults collected from a small swale dominated
by western wheatgrass had crop contents of 91 percent western wheatgrass,
9 percent needleleaf sedge, and 0.2 percent blue grama. Direct observations
of its feeding in Michigan revealed that the species fed upon orchardgrass
and poverty oatgrass and a forb, peppermint. In northeastern Texas,
food preference tests using several local plants showed that the
first choice of greenstriped grasshoppers was new shoots of Johnsongrass.
In the absence of Johnsongrass, the grasshoppers preferred a species
of brome, Bromus catharticus. An unexpected result of the
food selection tests was this grasshopper's voracious feeding on
a forb, annual sowthistle, even in the presence of lush grasses.
The greenstriped grasshopper's method of attacking a grass is to
climb the plant and begin feeding on the edge of a leaf about halfway
up. A narrow leaf, like that of Kentucky bluegrass, is cut through,
held by the front tarsi, and directed to the mouthparts. In the
case of a broader leaf, such as a wheatgrass, the grasshopper may
feed to the midrib and then continue to feed up the leaf to the
tip. Occasionally, after consuming or dropping a cut section, the
grasshopper will turn and feed head down on the attached portion.
This grasshopper also feeds on ground litter, in which case a favorite
item is a cut green leaf.
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Figures 1-5. Appearance
of the five nymphal instars of Chortophaga virdifasciata
- their sizes, structures, and color patterns. Notice progressive
development of the wing pads. BL=body length, FL=Hind Femur
Length. AS=number of antennal segments
First Instar: BL 5.5-8.2 mm FL 2.4-3.7 mm AS 10-13.
Second Instar: BL 7.8-10.1 mm FL 4.6-5.1 mm AS
Third Instar: BL 9.5-11.8 mm FL 6.1-6.6 mm AS
Fourth Instar: BL 13.5-15 mm FL 7.1-8.2 mm AS 20-21.
Fifth Instar: BL 17.3-20
mm FL 9.0-11.1 mm AS 21-22.
Figures 6-10. Appearance
of the adult male and female of Chorophaga biridifasciata,
head and pronotum of female, wings of female, egg pod and
Adult Male: BL 18.5-19.8 mm FL 10.7-12 mm AS
Adult Female: BL 25-29 mm FL 13.5-55 mm AS 21-25.
Dorsal view of head and pronotum of an adult female.
Spread wings of an adult female.
Egg pod and several loose eggs.
The greenstriped grasshopper possesses long wings that extend 2
to 8 mm beyond the end of the abdomen. A strong flier, it regularly
disperses from its nymphal habitat to other areas. In Michigan the
eggs hatch and the nymphs develop in moist swales and in the margins
of marshes where Kentucky bluegrass grows luxuriantly. Numbers of
the young adults fly out from these habitats into the uplands. Another
example of dispersive flight is the observation on 8 May 1991 of
a male sitting on a sidewalk of the University of Wyoming campus.
This grasshopper had likely flown from a favorable habitat on the
outskirts of Laramie.
Adults take evasive flights in which the males fly distances of
10 to 30 feet and the females twice that far. The height of these
flights ranges from 6 to 24 inches. Usually the grasshoppers crepitate
in flight, but when quickly startled they fly without crepitation,
which slows their speed. To the human ear the sound produced is
a soft buzz. The insects dive and flutter to the ground in alighting.
In eastern Wyoming an interesting observation was made of a male
that rose up approximately 25 feet and then flew rapidly away from
the habitat and beyond the observer's power of vision.
Males also fly and crepitate to attract the females. These flights
are of short duration, no longer than two seconds, and most last
only one second, and at heights up to 3 feet.
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The greenstriped grasshopper is a green or brown, bandwinged species.
The majority of females are green while the majority of males are
brown (Fig. 6 and 7). Females are considerably larger than the males.
The pronotal disk has posterior angle acute (Fig. 8); median carina
is strong, equally elevated over its full length, and weakly cut
once in front of middle; top of carina is usually light
tan. Hind wings have basal area pale greenish yellow and the dark
band is faded and incomplete (Fig. 9). Hind tibiae are bluish gray
or red and have a tan annulus near proximal end.
Nymphs (Fig. 1-5) are identifiable by their shape, structures,
and color patterns.
- Head. Face moderately slanting; antennae ensiform, ringed fuscous
and white in instar I, fuscous ventrally, tan dorsally in instars
II to V; compound eye with light spots and with light line that
begins base of antenna and that usually divides eye into a light
dorsal half and a dark ventral half.
- Pronotum with disk tectate; median carina tan, moderately elevated
and uncut; a tan band in green nymphs runs down middle of dorsum
of thorax and abdomen; lateral carinae lacking in instars I to
III, weak in instars IV and V.
- Hind femur with outer medial area green, tan, or brown and with
small dark spots.
- General body color usually green or brown, sometimes tan (Fig.
The early instars (I to III) of Chortophaga viridifasciata
and Encoptolophus costalis appear similar; both are usually
green and structurally similar. They may be separated by a few characteristics
that differ. The antennae of E. costalis are clavate while
those of C. viridifasciata are ensiform. The outer faces
of the femur and tibia of the fore- and midlegs of E. costalis
have four distinct longitudinal ridges, which usually have black
lines between them. Those of C. viridifasciata have two distinct
ridges, which are the upper and lower carina, and a third weak ridge
between them with no black lines between the ridges. Instar I of
E. costalis has the medial area of the hind femur pink in
the distal half, and that of C. viridifasciata is entirely
green. Instars IV and V are identifiable by the shape of the pronotum.
The disk of E. costalis moderately, and that of C. viridifasciata
is tectate (steep roof-like); the posterior angle of the disk in
E. costalis is obtuse, and that of C. viridifasciata
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In eastern Wyoming, eggs of the greenstriped grasshopper hatch
during the middle of July two weeks ahead of the velvetstriped grasshopper,
Eritettix viridis, which frequently shares the same moist
habitat. In southern states where two or more generations occur
annually, hatching takes place earlier and at several times more
through the growing season. In Texas, nymphs have been found throughout
the year. Eggs deposited in southern states appear to develop without
any diapause just as they do in the laboratory, where it is possible
to obtain six generations in a year.
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In the northern states the nymphs develop slowly, taking about
100 days to become fourth instars. In eastern Wyoming this stage
is reached by the middle of October. Many of these nymphs molt to
the fifth instar before cold weather compels them to enter dormancy.
The nymphs appear to be very cold hardy. A fourth instar nymph collected
close to the time of entering dormancy survived for 48 hours at
0°F. Nymphs become active in March and develop to the adult stage
in early April. Laboratory research indicates that in winter these
late instar nymphs may be in a facultative diapause, which is broken
the following spring by an increasing photoperiod rather
than the concomitant increasing temperature.
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Some adults may disperse from their nymphal habitats but others
remain and reproduce there. Pair formation begins when females are
attracted to crepitating males and approach them by flying and crepitating
to signal a receptive response. When close, the pair begin to walk
and hop toward each other. During courtship both males and females
may also perform femur-tipping and other movements. The male stridulates
as he approaches and when they touch, he mounts and they copulate.
Copulations last 30 to 60 minutes.
No information is available on how soon females begin oviposition
or how many eggs they produce during their lifetime. In Indiana
a female was observed to oviposit in damp sand at the margin of
a pond. In the laboratory females readily oviposit in bare sandy
loam soil. Females bore into the ground to a depth of one and one-fourth
inches. Pods are one and one-eighth to one and one-fourth inches
long and contain 25 eggs in the bottom half inch with the remainder
of the pod being hardened froth. Eggs are light tan and 4 to 4.5
mm long (Fig. 10). In the northern part of its geographic range,
this species has one generation annually and overwinters in the
late nymphal stage.
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In the eastern United States the greenstriped grasshopper is one
of the most abundant and widespread species of grasshoppers. Populations,
however, do not grow to what pest managers call a grasshopper outbreak
(25 adults or more per square yard). This may in part be due to
a special auditory communication among the males that spaces individuals.
The behavior may not only reduce competition among males for mates
but may also limit population density.
In western states populations are neither widespread nor abundant.
The species is limited to small moist habitats in which densities
of adults are less than one per square yard. As long as these habitats
remain favorable, populations persist for years. Although many studies
have addressed the behavior and physiological ecology of this species,
apparently no special study has been made of its population ecology.
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Because of its wide distribution, the greenstriped grasshopper
faces many different environmental hazards and extremes. In the
north, e.g., eastern Colorado and Wyoming, late instar nymphs and
adults must make adjustments to the cold and inclement weather of
March and April. This they do by taking cover under litter, especially
during the night. On April 4 in a smooth brome habitat next to an
irrigated park lawn, grasshoppers were still hidden at 7 a.m. DST
when soil surface temperature was 35°F and air temperature 1 inch
high 33°F. By 8 a.m., when temperatures had risen (soil 45°F and
air 40°F), the grasshoppers had emerged and were basking either
horizontally on the ground or vertically, head up, on old culms
of grass. They continued basking at least until 10 a.m. when soil
temperature had risen to 67°F and air temperature 52°F During the
middle of the day they feed and potter, spending most of this time
on the ground.
Further observations are needed to provide a complete picture of
their daily activities. Because of low grasshopper numbers, pertinent
facts will take considerable time to accumulate.
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Alexander, G. 1967. Cold hardiness in overwintering
juvenile grasshoppers. Entomol. News 78: 147-154.
Cantrall, I. J. 1943. The ecology of the Orthoptera
and Dermaptera of the George Reserve, Michigan. Misc. Publ. Mus.
Zool., Univ. Michigan, No. 54.
Carothers, E. E. 1923. Notes on the taxonomy, development
and life history of certain Acrididae. Trans. Amer. Entomol. Soc.
Gangwere, S. K. 1961. A monograph on food selection
in Orthoptera. Trans. Amer. Entomol. Soc. 87: 67-230.
Halliburton, W. H., and G. Alexander. 1964. Effect
of photoperiod on molting of Chortophaga viridifasciata
(DeGeer) (Orthoptera: Acrididae). Entomol. News 75: 133-137.
Isely, F. B. 1946. Differential feeding in relation
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