Grasshoppers, crickets, and katydids. Those names are often used interchangeably, but they actually belong to very different insects. Although they’re all part of a group of insects known as orthopterans and have a lot of similarities, there are some distinguishing features to help you tell them apart. Let’s take a closer look!
What is a grasshopper?
Like all insects, grasshoppers have a head, thorax, and abdomen. If you take a close look at this photo, you’ll see that they also have antennae, but they’re pretty short. Unlike some of the other insects we’re going to talk about, grasshoppers are diurnal (active during the day). If you were to watch a grasshopper “sing,” you’d see that it’s produced by the grasshopper rubbing it’s hind legs against its wings.
Teaching Tip: Keep learning about grasshoppers by checking out Janelle’s reading of “Are You a Grasshopper?”
What is a cricket?
Comparing this photo of a cricket to the photo of the grasshopper, you’ll probably see some big differences right away. Although they also have a head, thorax, and abdomen, cricket antennae are much longer than grasshopper antennae. Unlike grasshoppers, crickets “sing” by rubbing their wings together. They’re also active during a different time of the day. Crickets are crepuscular, meaning they’re most active during dawn and at dusk.
Guiding Question: What differences do you see when you compare the grasshopper and cricket? What similarities?
What is a katydid?
Katydids are also known as bush crickets. Many species look very similar to grasshoppers, but you can usually differentiate the two by looking at the length of their antennae. They’re primarily nocturnal (active at night), and their body shapes help them blend into leaves and grass.
Guiding Question: What do you notice about this katydid? Compare it to the grasshopper and the cricket. What do you notice about its body shape compared to the others? What do you notice about its antennae compared to the others?
The lovely lubber
Check out this giant grasshopper! This is an eastern lubber grasshopper. They’re not native to Illinois, but if you find yourself in the southeastern United States, chances are good that you’ll come across them. Although they’re much larger than the species we see around Chicago, they’re also harmless to humans.
Guiding Question: What do you notice about this grasshopper’s coloring? Do you think it serves a purpose? What might it do? (The bright colors actually serve as a warning for predators!)
Make your own grasshopper!
Let’s make our own grasshoppers! If you have some clothespins, you can create this cute craft. Click here for instructions just using a clothespin and paint, or click here for instructions with a clothespin and pipe cleaners.
Behind the Scenes
What’s this red-eared slider doing? She’s not just wiggling around. She’s digging a nest! When it’s ready, she’ll lay her eggs in the nest, and bury them until the baby turtles are ready to hatch and make their way to the water.