Differential Grasshopper

Melanoplus differentialis


Image of a differential grasshopper.
Differential grasshopper
Shelly Cox

Acrididae (short-horned grasshoppers) in the order Orthoptera (grasshoppers, katydids, crickets)


Relatively large grasshoppers that vary somewhat in coloration and may be green, brownish-green or olive green. The femurs of the hind legs have a black herringbone pattern, and the tibias are usually yellow with black saw-toothed spikes.


Length: to 2 inches.

Differential grasshopper

Grasshopper on a branch. It has violet eyes.
Differential grasshopper in St Louis County
Habitat and conservation

Found in a wide variety of habitats, including open fields, gardens, grasslands, meadows, prairies, roadsides, and lands along ponds and streams. Originally it lived only in wet meadows and creek bottomlands, but with the spread of farms, it has become a pest of many food crops. Population numbers fluctuate from year to year.


The adults and nymphs feed on a wide variety of grasses and other leafy plants. They also eat crops, including corn, soybeans, alfalfa, cotton, vegetables, small grains and the leaves of fruit trees. When they run out of food in one area, the adults can travel up to 10 miles in a day in search of more food.

image of Differential Grasshopper Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri



Common and abundant.

Life cycle

Mating takes place late in the summer or in early fall. The female uses her ovipositor to press long eggs masses into the soil. She is capable of laying up to 8 egg masses that contain 25 eggs each. The eggs overwinter, and the nymphs emerge the following spring. It takes the nymphs approximately two months to reach adulthood.

Human connections

At times, differential grasshoppers occur in large enough populations to cause severe damage to agricultural crops. Remember, however, that one of their favored food plants is giant ragweed!

Ecosystem connections

They are an important component in the food chain for many animals, including foxes, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, amphibians, lizards, snakes, birds, turtles, bats and many predatory spiders and insects.