Red-Legged Grasshopper

Melanoplus femurrubrum


Image of a red-legged grasshopper.
Red-legged grasshopper
Shelly Cox

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


These grasshoppers are variable in color and can include shades of red-brown, yellow, dark brown, green and olive green. The hind legs are bright red or yellowish and have a black herringbone pattern.

When startled, these grasshoppers can fly for distances of 40 feet. Their flight is fast and even; they fly about a yard above the vegetation.

Similar species: This species can be difficult to distinguish from its close relatives without going into details of anatomical structures and form. If you need an exact identification, consult an expert.


Length: to about 1 inch.

Habitat and conservation

A species of grassy and weedy places, particularly sunny, moist, low areas. They can be found in meadows and prairies, vacant lots, yards, along roadsides, in river flood plains and in cultivated fields, old fields and crop borders.


Both adults and nymphs feed on a variety of grasses and other plants. Among forbs, legumes and composites are preferred (including trefoils, sweetclover, vetches, dandelion, chicory, goldenrods and ragweed). When food is scarce, as during droughts, this species develops longer wings and readily disperses to new areas.

image of Red-Legged Grasshopper Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Statewide (throughout most of North America).


Common; abundant. The US Department of Agriculture recognizes this species as a crop pest that can damage alfalfa, clover, soybeans, tobacco, various grains such as oats and corn, and vegetables such as beans, beets, cabbage and potatoes. They also damage forage grasses. The amount of crop damage they cause varies year to year as their populations fluctuate. Often, they stick to waste lands and feed on weeds and scrub grasses.

Life cycle

The female deposits several egg masses in the soil. Each egg mass can contain up to about 20 eggs. The eggs overwinter and hatch in the spring. The nymphs will reach adult size by August or early September.

Human connections

Poultry tapeworms and other poultry parasites use this species as an intermediate host, so chickens, turkeys and other poultry that eat these grasshoppers can potentially acquire these parasites. Various flies, worms, slugs, snails, ants, beetles and more can be vectors for poultry parasites, too.

Ecosystem connections

Wild game birds such as turkey and quail consume these grasshoppers, which can at times be abundant. As with domestic fowl, wild fowl can acquire parasites from eating these grasshoppers. Fortunately, unless the infestation is severe or the bird weakened, the parasites don’t usually cause death.