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Acanthacris ruficornis (a grasshopper)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Phylum: Arthopoda > Mandibulata > Atelocerata > Panhexapoda > Hexapoda > Insecta (insects) > Dicondyla > Pterygota > Metapterygota > Neoptera > Polyneoptera > Anartioptera > Orthopterida > Orthoptera > Acrididae

A pair of  Acanthacris ruficornis mating (photo. N. Larsen).

Acanthacris ruficornis is found virtually throughout Africa south of the Sahara. It is eaten as food by people in the northern parts of South Africa (Chesler 1938), as well as in Congo and the Sahel (i.e. the band of arid savannah just south of the Sahara) (van Huis 1996). Pallatable grasshoppers and locusts are normally cooked, fried or roasted, after the legs and wings have been removed. In South Africa it is the common large brown grasshopper found in people's gardens, often referred to erroneously as a locust (the term locust should be applied only to swarming species of grasshoppers). 

According to Key (1930), describing his finding on the biology of this species in the Cape Peninsula: "The food of this large locust consists of the leaves of various trees, and its habitat is fairly open ground planted with small trees. Port Jackson willows are a favourite haunt. The season [of the adult] is from January to September and the insect is very common in March. Oviposition have been observed from January to June. The egg-pod is 42-50 mm. x 10 mm., and may be curved, though it is sometimes quite straight. The frothy material in this case has very little cohesive power, and practically no wall is formed, even in the soft soil required for oviposition. Freshly turned over soil is especially favoured. The number of eggs is very large, and very constant, the numbers counted in two pods being 118 and 121 respectively. The eggs are laid in the lower 35 mm. of the pod, and measure 6.5 x 1.5 mm. The eggs are covered with the usual frothy was, but earth is never swept over the spot by the insect, which flies straight off the hole. The first larvae appear in October. They are green when first hatched, and usually remain greeen, but may become brown or pink according to the background."

Chesler (1938) describes each of the seven instars (i.e. stages between moults) that this grasshopper passes through during its development. Her observations its phenology (i.e. stages of development over the year) in Johannesburg are similar to those of Key (1930) for the Cape Peninsula. She says: "There is a single generation a year. The hoppers appearing after the first summer rains become adults in February and March. Adults were obtained in the laboratory in April and remained alive in the laboratory throughout the winter. The eggs deposited in April and May undergo a winter diapause and the hoppers emerge at the beginning of the next season."

References

  • Chesler, J. 1938. Observations on the biology of some South African Acrididae (Orthoptera). Transactions of the Royal Entomological Society of London 87: 313-351.

  • Key, K.H.L. 1930. Preliminary ecological notes on the Acrididae of the Cape Peninsula. South African Journal of Science 27: 406-413.

  • van Huis, A. 1996

Text by Hamish G. Robertson


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