Newfound grasshopper takes to the trees on Konza Prairie

MANHATTAN, KAN. -- Grasses typify the Great Plains, so it's not surprising that more than 108 species of grasshoppers are at home on the range in the central United States.

However, a grasshopper that doesn't love grass lives in Kansas too, a recent discovery at Kansas State University's Konza Prairie Biological Station shows. This newfound hopper prefers trees.

The first specimen was actually collected in September 2001 by a student from Fort Riley Middle School, according to Valerie Wright, Konza's environmental educator and naturalist. However, it wasn't at first recognized as a new species for the Konza Prairie list, she said.

The student collected the insect as part of an ongoing ecological study of grasshopper diversity on Konza called "Schoolyard LTER," short for Long-Term Ecological Research, a program funded by the National Science Foundation.

The rare tree-dweller has now been positively identified as the Grizzly Spur-throat Grasshopper. Ted Hopkins, retired K-State entomology professor, longtime grasshopper researcher and Konza Prairie volunteer docent, made the identification.

"This appears to be the first recorded sighting of the Grizzly grasshopper in the Flint Hills region of Kansas," Hopkins said.

He discovered two large, dark-colored female hoppers basking in the sun on the stone wall of the old ranch house at Konza in mid-October 2002. Wright, also an entomologist, subsequently collected five males and females from hackberry tree trunks in October 2003.

Melanoplus punctualatus, the Grizzly grasshopper, was first identified in the United States in 1862 by an entomologist named Scudder, who specialized in grasshopper identification studies. The Grizzly has preferred eastern hardwood forests and the pine forests of the southeastern region of the country. The species has be

Contact: Ted Hopkins
Kansas State University

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