I thought it was about time that I focused on our various Grasshoppers that can be found in the Cairns Botanic Gardens and the Wet Tropics. Grasshoppers lie within the Orthoptera order which also includes crickets and katydids, which will feature in an upcoming Blog. They have their own suborder called Caelifera and family Acrididae.
They may be distinguished from other insects by their legs, which stretch forward and backward without any intervening hinge. The hind pair of legs on each side is adapted for jumping by being long and powerful; in some species, these legs can be longer than the front pair. They have tegmina or leathery forewings with horny tips and membranous hind wings. They have compound eyes which consist of many individual lenses called ommatidia.
These small insects are found throughout the world, and make up a large part of the insect population and can be found in almost every habitat on Earth. There are 11,000 species of grasshopper worldwide and about 1,900 species found in Australia. The most common Grasshopper found in the Cairns Botanic Gardens in my experience is the Giant Grasshopper (Valanga irregularis).
Giant Grasshopper (Valanga irregularis) as featured in the Disco Bugs collection.
Giant Grasshopper (Valanga irregularis)
Australia’s Largest Grasshoppers are common in the Cairns Botanic Gardens and are also fairly widespread around the north of Australia. Reports of up to 9 centimetres in length have been recorded and I’m sure that I have personally sighted a number of individuals this length. Females are the larger sex in this species. This huge grasshopper makes its home among trees, shrubs and plants where it feeds on young leaves.
Its scientific name, ‘Valanga’, comes from the Latin word ‘valere’ meaning to be strong and firm. Its second scientific name means ‘irregular’ because of its unique colour variations which vary according to the region in which it is found.
In my experience, they are reasonably easy to approach and photograph as long as you move slowly towards them without any sudden movements. I can often get my lens within centimetres of them without disturbing them. At the start of the wet season, you can often find huge numbers of juveniles. They are a well-known leaf-eater for any keen gardener and therefore unappreciated. However, they make a very important part of the food chain being food for other insects, spiders, reptiles and birds.
Juvenile Giant Grasshoppers (Valanga irregularis) at the start of the wet season.