The mating habits of grasshoppers are a mystery to most people; do grasshoppers lay eggs? What happens when grasshoppers mate? And, what is the lifespan and life cycle of a grasshopper?
The life cycle of grasshoppers
The life cycle of a grasshopper begins with an egg. Grasshopper eggs are usually deposited in clusters of egg pods just below the surface of the soil, with each pod containing up to 300 rice-shaped eggs. The eggs remain dormant in the soil throughout the fall and winter seasons, before finally hatching in spring or early summer.
Grasshopper nymphs emerge from their eggs in the spring or early summer. The look like smaller versions of adult grasshoppers, except that they are lighter in color and lack wings.
Immediately after they hatch, grasshopper nymphs begin to feed on tender plant foliage to fuel their development.
The nymphs moult 5 or 6 times throughout this stage of their life cycle, becoming progressively bigger each time. Grasshoppers also develop wings during the nymphal stage of their development.
Grasshopper nymphs take 25 – 30 days to reach adulthood. They have their wings by the time they reached this stage, but fledgeling adult grasshoppers do not have fully developed reproductive organs. These mature after 1 – 3 weeks, during which time the adult grasshopper also gains weight.
The lifespan of grasshoppers
The total lifespan of most grasshopper species is around 12 months. They spend up to 10 months in the egg stage, around a month in the nymphal stage, and another month as an adult.
Male vs. Female Grasshopper Reproductive Organs
The reproductive organs of insects are very different from those of mammals and other vertebrates.
Male grasshopper’s reproductive organs include a pair of testes (which contain the spermatocyte cells that give rise to sperm cells), and a structure called the aedeagus. The aedeagus is used to insert a package of sperm cells (called a spermatophore) into the female grasshopper during mating.
Female grasshopper’s reproductive systems consist of ovaries (which contain her eggs), and an ovipositor. During grasshopper mating, the male grasshopper inserts his aedeagus into the female’s ovipositor and deposits a spermatophore. This package of sperm cells is then used to fertilize her eggs through many tiny passages called micropyles.
When the female’s eggs are fertilized, she will use her ovipositor to deposit them into the soil in egg pods.
The total lifespan of a grasshopper lasts for around 12 months, 11 of which are spent in the egg and nymphal stages of their life cycle. During their 30 days of adulthood, grasshoppers will seek out a suitable mate and reproduce.
Once the female grasshopper’s eggs are fertilized, she will deposit them into the soil in egg pods. Grasshopper eggs remain dormant in the soil throughout the fall and winter, and hatch into nymphs in the spring or early summer.