Buggin with Bridgey – January 2023

Buggin with Bridgey is a Monthly report of sightings from the Let’s Go Buggin Cairns Nature Tour in the Cairns Botanic Gardens.  As the months roll by, subtle changes in the seasons bring sightings of new creatures and this report aims to give people a wrap up of the current animals seen as well as provide an ongoing citizen science account of our wonderful critters that can be seen in the tropical north of Queensland.

Grasshoppers in the Cairns Botanic Gardens

and in the Wet Tropics

A closeup of a grasshopper looking directly in the camera sitting on a leaf

Large Forest Pyrgomorph (Desmoptera truncatipennis)

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).

A golden grasshopper sittin on a leaf with golden hexegon shapes in the background

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.

A group of juvenile Giant Grasshoppers sitting on a leaf in the Cairns Botanic Gardens

Juvenile Giant Grasshoppers (Valanga irregularis) at the start of the wet season.

Red-legged Methiola (Methiola picta)

Probably my favourite grasshopper that can be found in the Cairns Botanic Gardens is known as the Red-legged Methiola (Methiola picta). The species of short-horned grasshopper can be found on twigs and leaves. This species is exceptionally colourful even by insect standards with bright green, red or blue on its thorax (shoulders) and abdomen (rear), which is distinctive against their darker bodies.

They are more active during the morning and afternoon hours but may also be seen at night when they come out to feed on plants.  These beautiful grasshoppers are only found in Queensland, with the vast majority of the population in the Wet Tropics.

Matingh colourful grasshoppers on a brown grass stalk

Mating Red-legged Methiola (Methiola picta) Grasshoppers.  The female is the larger of the two.

Large Forest Pyrgomorph (Desmoptera truncatipennis)

Also known as a Gumleaf grasshopper is a very cute leaf-looking grasshopper found in the Wet Tropics of Queensland. It is a leaf mimicking grasshopper that has adapted its shape to that of leaves, giving it an advantage over predators by allowing them to blend in to the environment.

The majority of my sightings of these characteristic grasshoppers are at night when they come out to eat.  They are especially cute when they use their legs to clean their face and antennae with their feet.

A grasshopper that looks like a brown leaf in the Cairns Botanic Gardens

Large Forest Pyrgomorph (Desmoptera truncatipennis)

Gesonula mundata

The Gesonula mundata is a beautiful species of short-horned grasshopper.  It is also found in Southeast Asia and Oceania, where it lives in tropical forests. The Gesonula mundata has large eyes and bright yellow stripes across its wings, which make it easy to spot.

This species isn’t as common as some of the fore-mentioned species, and probably why it doesn’t have a common name.  I will often find them close to waterways and also areas where there is an abundance of long grasses.

A green and black grasshopper on a leaf in the Cairns Botanic Gardens

Gesonula mundata

Japanese Rice Grasshopper (Oxya japonica)

This species is very similar to Gesonula mundata, and seemingly they have very similar geographical range but extending north to Japan as well as Southeast Asia and Oceania.  Again like Gesonula mundata, they tend to favour areas near water in my experience.

A green yellow and brown grasshopper sitting on a leaf

Japanese Rice Grasshopper (Oxya japonica)


Would you like to see some of these amazing grasshoppers firsthand in the Cairns Botanic Gardens on a Let’s Go Buggin Tour?  Use ‘blog’ as the coupon code for 20% discount on your tour booking.

Next Blog in late February.

Bridgette uses a variety of Olympus OM SYSTEM Cameras and Lenses