Grasshoppers and Crickets

Roesels Bush Cricket Kieron HustonRoesels Bush Cricket Kieron Huston

County Recorder Roy Frost reports on these primitive insects

Grasshoppers and crickets belong to the order Orthoptera, from the Greek meaning straight-winged. They are large, primitive insects, of which some 600 species are found in Europe and about 35 in the UK. Both have large hind limbs, enabling them to jump many times their body length, and both create sound known as stridulation. Grasshoppers do this by rubbing their hind legs against their wings, while crickets rub their wing bases together. Grasshoppers are diurnal and vegetarian, while crickets are omnivorous and some are mainly nocturnal. In addition groundhoppers, which are silent, resemble grasshopper nymphs but may be identified by their greatly extended pronota. All of these groups can be found between spring and autumn, though most do not mature until the summer. In Derbyshire the various species occupy a wide range of habitats, including woodland, grassland, wetlands and industrial dereliction.

Recording in Derbyshire

Orthoptera recording in Derbyshire has been very limited until recently. There were two short lists of species published in the 19th century and in 1905 the Reverend Jourdain, a renowned ornithologist, wrote the Orthoptera account for The Victoria County History of Derbyshire1. No further detailed accounts were produced until Whiteley wrote three papers in publications of the Sorby NHS [1974, 1981 and 19852], dealing with Orthoptera of the Sheffield area, including a large part of northern Derbyshire. Roy Frost became interested in grasshoppers and crickets in 1986 and in 1991 published an account of their county status, based on 10k square mapping, in the DES Journal3, which has been up-dated in an annual report of the same society [now DaNES] ever since. The study of these insects remains a minority interest with an average of 15-20 observers a year submitting their observations, many of them casual.
Because grasshoppers and crickets produce distinctive stridulations, records are acceptable on aural identification alone. Older recorders who have lost the ability to hear high-pitched sounds, can use a bat detector which converts the insects’ ultrasound to an audible pitch. One species, Speckled Bush Cricket, produces sound even outside the range of most children’s hearing; using a bat detector, it can be heard 30m away.
The 1991 paper mentioned above gave details of just eight species then known to be resident in the county, including two aliens, the House Cricket and the Greenhouse Camel Cricket. The others were the widespread and locally abundant Field and Common Green Grasshoppers, and the more localised Meadow and Mottled Grasshoppers, Oak Bush Cricket and Common Groundhopper. Since then the list has virtually doubled, apparently as a result of climate change, with the addition of another groundhopper, a grasshopper and no fewer than five bush crickets.
The first ‘arrival’ was the Slender Groundhopper, which was found at Ilkeston in 1991 and is now widespread. The next ‘new’ species was the Dark Bush Cricket, which was known to Jourdain at Repton Shrubs, but with no further records until it was found in eastern Derby in 2000. It is still restricted to that area and parts of the Derwent river corridor downstream from there. As its rudimentary wings render it incapable of flight, its local presence suggests a remnant, previously overlooked, population or perhaps an introduction. In 2002 the Lesser Marsh Grasshopper was found on two former colliery spoil heaps in the north-east. Its subsequent speed of colonisation has been impressive, so much so it is now the numerically dominant grasshopper in huge swathes of the county’s lowlands. 2006 was very much a ‘break-through’ year when three new bush crickets were found in the county, namely Roesel’s Bush Cricket at Calke Park, Long-winged Conehead at Lullington and Drakelow NR and Speckled Bush Cricket at Long Eaton. The first two of these are now widespread in Derbyshire’s eastern and southern lowlands, but the Speckled Bush Cricket has been found only at two extra sites [and both by a nocturnal bat-worker]. In 2009 the Short-winged Conehead was discovered at Overseal and is presently known from another seven sites, as far north as the Avenue Washlands NR. Of these five bush-crickets, all except Dark and Speckled have macropterous forms, their extra-long wings giving them considerable powers of dispersal. I thank all of the observers who have submitted their records to the annual report.

Records from Woodside Nature Reserve
Three species were recorded on the Woodside BioBlitz; it would be very surprising if Field and Lesser Marsh grasshoppers were not also present.

Species Recorded During the Woodside BioBlitz
Meadow Grasshopper Chorthippus parallelus
Slender Groundhopper Tetrix subulata
Long-winged Conehead Conocephalus discolor