9 Sep 2014

9 Sep 14 - Heath Grasshopper

Whilst walking up to the High hide at Littlesea to look for the Great White Egret, I spotted a dark Grasshopper on the patch of recently burnt heath next to the track. It's my first Heath Grasshopper. Heath Grasshoppers are as their name suggests a Heathland specialist and they prefer small slopes. So looks like the area around the High hide is perfect. It is a nationally rare species which is only found in Dorset on the dry Heaths of the Poole Harbour basin & the Avon Heath & Parley Common Heaths & outside of Dorset in the New Forest.
Heath Grasshopper: Note, the dark wedge markings reach to the rear of the Pronotum
Heath Grasshopper: Close up of the Pronotum which is the plate behind the head with the creamy bracket markings. There is a faint line at right angles to the body on the Pronotum called the Sulcus. On Heath Grasshoppers, the length of the Pronotum in front of the Sulcus in greater or equal to the length behind it. Also note the straight & thin antennae
Identification of the Grasshoppers seems more complex that the Bush Crickets as many of the Grasshoppers have different colour forms. The main identification features for Heath Grasshoppers are: it is a medium sized Grasshopper with dark wedge markings that reach to the rear of the Pronotum (on Field Grasshoppers the dark wedge stops before the rear of the Pronotum). The length of the Pronotum in front of the Sulcus in greater or equal to the length behind it. Also note the straight & thin antennae (on Mottled Grasshoppers these would be slightly bent antennae & clubbed on males or thickened on females, whilst Rufous Grasshoppers have pale tipped clubbed antennae). Additionally, the wings do not extend beyond the knees of the hind legs (on Field Grasshopper they extend beyond the knees). Based on habitat, the most likely alternative species are Mottled & Field Grasshoppers.
Heath Grasshopper: Note, the wings do not extend beyond the knees of the hind legs

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