Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Grasshoppers & Walking Sticks

Fall must be a busy time for grasshoppers in Floridian nature because I sure have seen a lot of them in my garden this month. This southern green-striped grasshopper is a common insect  found in Florida as well as other southern states. The greenstriped grasshopper feeds mainly on grasses with a preference for succulent plants.This one was feeding off my banana tree and had eaten about 1/8 of a large leaf when I discovered him.

The greenstriped grasshopper possesses long wings that extend 2 to 8 mm beyond the end of the abdomen. A strong flier, it often travels a great distance from where it hatched. This grasshopper seems to be a female based on her size and color and she has attracted at least one male who I caught trying to put the move on her!

This two-striped walking stick is also a common sight around here. Other names for this skinny creature are devil's riding horse, prairie alligator, and stick bug. These bugs are not harmless because they have the ability to spray a defensive chemical that is strong-smelling and painful to the eyes and mucus membranes! Unlike other stick insects, two-striped walking sticks have glands at their heads and they are able to use them as soon as they are born.. These glands  shoot a chemical spray to ward off enemies like ants, birds, beetles, mice, and anything else they might consider as a threat. If the spray gets into you or your pet's eyes it can cause intense immediate pain with a burning sensation, then a dull aching pain that wears away in a few hours, then the next day or two, light and pressure sensitivity, and redness in entire cornea can be expected. Although no long term damage should occur you may want to visit the doctor or have your pet looked at by a vet.

I'm not sure how often stick bugs mate, but I always see them together like this. Like all stick insects, the two-striped walking stick is herbivorus, feeding on the leaves of trees and shrubs. The life history of this species has not been reported in detail, but in Florida at least, the adults are most abundant in the fall, and that is when they lay their eggs. A botanist observed these types of walking sticks  laying eggs in the Ocala National Forest and noted that the female actually dug small pits in the sandy soil where she deposited eight to ten eggs in the pit, then covered them over with sand before repeating the process in a different area.

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