UC Riverside entomologist seeks grasshoppers

November 4, 2013 by Iqbal Pittalwala
A female Schistocerca nitens. Females are typically 5-6 cm in length. CREDIT: JOHN JONES, UC RIVERSIDE.

An entomologist at the University of California, Riverside is seeking grasshoppers of the type commonly found in Riverside for a research study. Called Schistocerca nitens, these grasshoppers are often found on trees and shrubs.

"The key feature to differentiate this species from other locally found large grasshoppers is the single lateral dark band on the side of the pronotum, just below the eye level," said John Jones, a laboratory technician in the Department of Entomology, who is involved in the collaborative study with the University of New Mexico. "There are other species of Schistocerca grasshoppers that are similar in size and color pattern to S. nitens, but the single lateral dark band makes it easy to differentiate S. nitens from the other species."

The study is aimed at helping control the desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) in Africa. S. nitens is closely related to S. gregaria. Plagues of desert locusts have threatened agricultural production in Africa for centuries.

Jones is seeking at least 70 grasshoppers for the study, and is requesting the public's help. S. nitens is common in Southern California, and is especially common in the Inland Empire because of its climate. Juvenile S. nitens are harder to differentiate from other local grasshoppers.

A male Schistocerca nitens. Males are typically 3.5 cm in length. CREDIT: JOHN JONES, UC RIVERSIDE.

"No other grasshopper in Riverside resembles these insects," he said. "The female is the largest grasshopper in the region. One of their main defenses is cryptic coloration and when approached, they freeze and try to blend into the background. They can often be flushed from plant growth by sprinkling the plants with water. Once they alight they can be captured by hand if approached very slowly. Usually, the grasshoppers will hide in the plant material until they are disturbed, in which case they will jump off and fly a short distance away—usually about 15 feet. Once the grasshoppers are disturbed, they can be very difficult to catch. Generally, it is best to catch them while they are on the plant."

Jones asks that any grasshoppers caught be placed in containers, such as jars, with a few leaves from the plant they were found on, and brought to Room 369 in the Entomology Building at UC Riverside. The lids of the containers do not need to have air holes unless the will be in the containers for more than a day.

A juvenile Schistocerca nitens. Juveniles may also be light brown in color. CREDIT: JOHN JONES, UC RIVERSIDE.

The Entomology Building is located on Citrus Drive, south of the intersection of Citrus and the South Circular Road. Directions can be obtained from the attendants in kiosks located on Canyon Crest Drive on the south entrance and just off University Avenue at the north campus entrance.

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