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Click here for Orthoptera checklist from the Great Smoky Mountains.

"The more than 20,000 species in this order have a worldwide distribution but are most diverse in the tropics. Body size varies from less than 5 mm to some of the world's largest insects, with body lengths up to 11.5 cm,and wingspans of over 22 cm. Orthopterans are a common component of terrestrial insect faunas and include some of the most voracious pests (locusts and certain katydids). Members of both suborders are generally phytophagous but many species are omnivores. Females of most species lay clutches of eggs, either in the ground or in vegetation. Some of the best examples of cryptic coloration are seen in this group, involving mimicry of leaves and other vegatation or other resemblance to the background (Chopard 1938; Hewitt 1979; Kevan 1982; Rentz 1991). Grasshoppers, katydids and crickets are well known for their abilities to jump and particularly for singing by males (females are typically silent). There are few places in the world where the calls of grasshoppers (usually diurnal), katydids and crickets (usually nocturnal) cannot be heard during warm seasons. Organs of sound production and sound reception involve quite different body parts in the two subgroups (Alexander 1960; Dumortier 1963)."-- (N.C. State University Entomology Dept.)

The name Orthoptera, derived from the Greek "ortho" meani ng straight and "ptera" meaning wing, refers to the parallel-sided structure of the front wings (tegmina). -- (N.C. State University Entomology Dept.)


Identification guide-- (N.C. State University Entomology Dept.)


  1. Antennae filiform
  2. Mouthparts mandibulate, hypognathous
  3. Pronotum shield like, covering much of thorax
  4. Front wings narrow, leathery (tegmina); hind wings fan-like
  5. Hind legs usually adapted for jumping (hind femur enlarged)
  6. Tarsi 3- or 4-segmented
  7. Cerci short, unsegmented
  1. Structurally similar to adults
  2. Developing wingpads often visible on thorax


Taxonomic Category Scientific Name Common Name
Phylum Arthropoda Arthropods
Class Insecta Insects
Order Orthoptera Grasshopper, Katydid, Cricket

Geographic distribution
(N.C. State University Entomology Dept.)

Common and abundant throughout the world

North America
Number of Families 11 28
Number of Species 1,080 20,000

Natural history
(N.C. State University Entomology Dept.)

Orthoptera probably arose during the middle of the Carboniferous period. Most living members of this order are terrestrial herbivores with modified hind legs that are adapted for jumping. Slender, thickened front wings fold back over the abdomen to protect membranous, fan-shaped hind wings. Many species have the ability to make and detect sounds. Orthoptera is one of the largest and most important groups of plant-feeding insects.

Orthoptera is generally regarded as a dominant group in most terrestrial habitats. These insects feed on all types of plants and often cause serious economic damage. Swarms of grasshoppers (locusts) regularly appear in parts of Africa, Asia, and North America and destroy crops over wide land areas. Mole crickets are major pests in lawns and golf courses in the southern United States. Several species of field crickets are reared commercially as fish bait.

  • In many species of Orthoptera, the males use sound signals (chirping or whirring) in order to attract a mate. The sound is produced by stridulation -- rubbing the upper surface of one wing against the lower surface of another wing, or the inner surface of the hind leg against the outer surface of the front wing.
  • Each stridulating species produces a unique mating call. In fact, some species may be so similar to each other that they can only be distinguished by their mating calls.
  • Many grasshoppers produce ultrasonic mating calls (above the range of human hearing). In some species, the sounds may be as high as 100 kHz. (Human hearing extends to about 20 kHz.)
  • Species that produce sound also have auditory (tympanal) organs. In crickets and katydids, these "ears" are on the tibia of the front legs. In grasshoppers, they are on the sides of the first abdominal segment.
  • The snowy tree cricket, Oecanthus fultoni (family Gryllidae), is often called the temperature cricket. Adding 40 to the number of chirps it makes in 15 seconds will equal the ambient temperature in degrees Fahrenheit.
  • The redlegged grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum) is not only a crop pest but also the intermediate host for a tapeworm (Choanotaenia infundibulum) that infests poultry.

Links to other sites

  • Orthoptera Species File Online -- taxonomic database, images & sound
  • Singing Insects of North America
  • Orthopteran phylogenectic relationships see the Tree of Life.
  • Iowa State University Insect Recipes Page
  • Bugbios web site offers beautiful photos of Orthopterans.
  • To see some of California's insects go to the Bugpeople.
  • UW-Madison Entomology Dept. Insect Research Collection

  • References
    • Alexander, R.D. 1960. Sound communication in Orthoptera and Cicadidae. In: Animal Sounds and Communication (Eds. W. E. Lanyon and W. N. Tavolga), Amer. Instit. Biol. Sci. No.7., Washington, D.C.:38-92.
    • Chopard, L. 1938. La biologie des Orthoptères. Encycl. ent. Ser. A 20:iV:1-541.
    • Dumortier, B. 1963. The physical characteristics of sound emissions in Arthropoda. In: Acoustic Behaviour in Animals (edited by R.-G. Busnel). Amsterdam: Elsevier.
    • Hewitt, G.M. 1979. Orthoptera: grasshoppers and crickets. Berlin: Gerbruder Borntrager.
    • Kevan, D.K. McE. 1982. Orthoptera. In: Synopsis and Classification of Living Organisms (edited by S. P. Parker). New York.
    • Rentz, D.C.F. 1991. Orthoptera. In: Insects of Australia (edited by CSIRO). Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.

    This page was written by Aeneas Murnane, Biology major. Thanks to Sabina Gupta, Denise Lim, and Dr. John Pickering for technical and web support in developing this page.

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    Following modified from University of Guelph
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    Order - ORTHOPTERA
    (Greek, orthos = straight; pteron = wing)
    Common Names: grasshoppers, locusts, crickets, katydids
    Distribution: Cosmopolitan

    Although the ordinal name Orthoptera has been used in many different ways over the years, it now normally refers only to the grasshoppers and crickets. These are familiar insects with parchment-like forewings, and almost always with an ability to jump using enlarged hind legs. The examples chosen  here are the Texas Toothpick Grasshopper, a Mole Cricket, and a Field Cricket.

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    Following modified from Cirrus
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