Friday, 21 December 2012

Anything to declare ...


The Orthoptera is an order of charismatic and abundant insects, which includes the grasshoppers, crickets, weta and locusts. Many members of this order manufacture an audible noise by stridulation (the act of producing sound by rubbing certain body parts together). In the case of the Orthopterans this is typically the wings or legs; these body parts containing rows of corrugated bumps. Their ‘song’ is one of the many sounds of summer; a time when they can easily be found in meadows, trees or bushes.

The British Isles currently plays host to twenty-seven native species (grasshoppers and crickets) and a number of naturalised, non-native species. In addition to our native fauna, and those species deemed non-native though naturalised, the unexpected Orthopteran occasionally turns up; with modern air travel providing a suitable mechanism for the transportation of the occasional exotic arrival. The following three species, the largest of which, a species of Tropidacris, has a wingspan of approximately 20cm and is around 10cm in length, were captured from an international airport located in the south of England, as unexpected arrivals in baggage reclaim …

The first is Acanthacris ruficornis (Fabricius, 1787). It arrived on a flight from Africa on 15 June 2001. The second is Anacridium melanorhodon ssp. melanorhodon (Walker, 1870); an arrival on a flight from northern Africa (Palestine) on 2 February 2000. The third, the most impressive of the three, is probably Tropidacris cristata (Linnaeus, 1758); which arrived on a flight from South America (Costa Rica) on 18 August 2001. Members of the genus Tropidacris are the largest known grasshoppers. All three were alive upon arrival. The third, T. cristata, had to be handled very carefully as it is a grasshopper with impressive strength. Any attempt to handle it is likely to be repelled with a lightening quick reprisal; its spiny hind legs inflicting damage to the unsuspecting handler ...

My thanks go to Darren Mann (OUMNH) for confirmation of identification.

Images copyright OUMNH. Photographed by Katherine Child, Hope Department of Entomology.

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