Singing Insects: Grasshoppers, Crickets, and Katydids

Grasshoppers, Crickets, and Katydids

» Posted by on Jan 26, 2012 in Crickets, Grasshoppers, Katydids, Wildlife | 4 comments

Singing Insects:  Grasshoppers, Crickets, and Katydids

Singing Insects:  Grasshoppers, Crickets, Katydids

Grasshoppers, Crickets, and Katydids are members of the Orthoptera, one of the most familiar insect orders.  Orthoptera includes two suborders: Caelifera (grasshoppers and relatives) and Ensifera (crickets, katydids, and gryllacridoids).  Cicadas (locusts) are also singing insects, and they are common in the Agua Fria River Basin.  Cicada distribution maps and sound recordings are being placed on the Internet.  I will post references to the information when it is available.

The katydid in the photo is probably Greater Angle-wing Katydid (Microcentrum Rhombifolium), or Gawk.  The California Angle-wing (Microcentrum californicum) also occurs in the Agua Fria River Basin, and according to the BugGuide website the two are distinguished chiefly by their songs.  The songs are quite distinctive.  Next time I see this Katydid I will try to catch a few notes to compare to the MusicOfNature recordings.

Song of the Gawk




At least some members of these species groups are active all twelve months in the southern parts of the upper Agua Fria River Basin, and nine or ten months in the north.  Most are herbivores, but some are omnivores or carnivores.  Their occasional population explosions can be annoying and expensive, and have led to a great deal of emphasis on eradication.  Protection deserves more consideration.  Orthoptera are all important biomass recyclers, and all serve as essential sources of food for other animals.  Besides, what would a summer night be without crickets?

Orthoptera suffer from habitat loss just as other species groups do.  Road and building construction are concentrated in valleys near lakes and streams.  The selective destruction of these habitats alters the size and composition of our largest insect populations.  These changes can affect ecosystem diversity, stability, and productivity.  The references listed in the Singing Insects of North America website and the references listed below are a good place to start to learn more about the ecological importance of these insects.


Many of the 400 grasshopper species known to occur in the western U. S. may be present in Arizona, but in the time available to prepare this report I could only verify 59 common species.  I hope the list of their names is a useful starting place for documenting Orthoptera sightings.

I compiled the list from the range maps on the website of the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  The site provides a key to 72 species, and fact sheets for 60 species (Pfadt 2002).  The fact sheets include maps, photographs, and the natural history of each species.

The Pinaleno Monkey Grasshopper (Eumorsea pinaleno) found in the Coronado N. F. is critically imperiled.  It is not listed in the Pfadt materials on the U. S. Department of Agriculture website.


Male crickets calling for mates by rubbing their forewings together are a common sound on warm summer nights.  The tone and frequency of the chirps varies with temperature.  Adding 40 to the number of chirps in 13 seconds yields a fairly accurate measure of the degrees Fahrenheit.

The website, Singing Insects of North America by Thomas J. Walker (crickets and katydids) and Thomas E. Moore (cicadas) provides a visual key to the nine families and subfamilies of North American Crickets north of Mexico.  It provides information on about 130 species.  House and field crickets of the Gryllinae subfamily are the most familiar. Distribution maps on the websiteshow the following five species are present in the Agua Fria River Basin.  The checklist at the end of this post has space to add these species.

Song of the Fall Field cricket




Around 350 species of Katydids in two families and six subfamilies are found in North America north of Mexico.  As mentioned above, two species of the Microcentrum genus occur in the Agua Fria River Basin.  The range maps on the Singing Insects of North America website could be used to add other likely residents to the checklist.  Please let me know if you do this.


Singing Insects References and Notes

Arnett, R.H.  2000.  American insects:  A handbook of the insects of America north of Mexico.  2nd Edition.  CRC Press.  1024 p.

Bug Guide.

Capinera, J.L, R.D. Scott, and T. J. Walker.  2004.  Field guide to grasshoppers, katydids, and crickets of the United States.  Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY  249 p.

Orthopterists’ Society.

Pfadt, R.E.  2002.  Field guide to common western grasshoppers:  Third edition.  Bulletin 912.   Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY.  288 p.

Pfadt, R.E.  n.d.  Grasshopper species fact sheets.  Bulletin 912.   Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station, University of Wyoming, Laramie, WY.

USDA.  Website:

Walker, T.J., and T.E. Moore. Website:  Singing Insects of North America.

 Singing Insects Checklist

Common Arizona Grasshoppers
Bruner spurthroated grasshopper (Melanoplus bruneri )
Dawson grasshopper (Melanoplus dawsoni )
Devastating grasshopper (Melanoplus devastator)
Differential grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis)
Flabellate grasshopper (Melanoplus occidentalis}
Fuzzy olive-green grasshopper (Campylacantha olivacea)
Gladston grasshopper (Melanoplus gladstoni)
Keeler grasshopper (Melanoplus keeleri)
Lakin grasshopper (Melanoplus lakinus)
Largeheaded grasshopper (Phoetaliotes nebrascensis)
Little spurthroated grasshopper (Melanoplus infantilis)
Migratory grasshopper (Melanoplus sanguinipes)
Narrowwinged sand grasshopper (Melanoplus angustipennis)
Nevada sage grasshopper (Melanoplus rugglesi)
Packard grasshopper (Melanoplus packardii)
Painted grasshopper (Dactylotum bicolor)
Pasture grasshopper (Melanoplus confuses)
Redlegged grasshopper (Melanoplus femurrubrum)
Sagebrush grasshopper (Melanoplus bowditchi)
Snakeweed grasshopper (Hesperotettix viridis)
Striped Sand grasshopper (Melanoplus foedus)
Twostriped grasshopper (Melanoplus bivittatus)
Valley grasshopper (Oedaleonotus enigma)
Yellowish spurthroat grasshopper (Melanoplus flavidus)
Admirable grasshopper (Syrbula admirabilis)
Bigheaded grasshopper (Aulocara elliotti)
Brownspotted grasshopper (Psoloessa delicatula)
Bruner slantfaced grasshopper (Bruneria brunnea)
Clubhorned grasshopper (Aeropedellus clavatus)
Crenulatewinged grasshopper (Cordillacris crenulata)
 Ebony grasshopper (Boopedon nubilum)
Fourspotted grasshopper (Phlibostroma quadrimaculatum)
Green fool grasshopper (Acrolophitus hirtipes)
Meadow grasshopper (Chorthippus curtipennis)
Obscure grasshopper (Opeia obscura)
Rufous grasshopper (Heliaula rufa)
Spottedwinged grasshopper (Cordillacris occipitalis)
Striped grasshopper (Amphitornus coloradus)
Texas spotted rangeland grasshopper (Psoloessa texana)
Twostriped slantfaced grasshopper (Mermiria bivittata)
Velvetstriped grasshopper (Eritettix simplex)
Whitecrossed grasshopper (Aulocara femoratum)
Whitewhiskered grasshopper (Ageneotettix deorum)
Wyoming toothpick grasshopper (Paropomala wyomingensis)
Bluelegged grasshopper (Metator pardalinus)
Carolina grasshopper (Dissosteira Carolina)
Clearwinged grasshopper (Camnula pellucid)
Dusky grasshopper (Encoptolophus costalis)
Greenstriped grasshopper (Chortophaga viridifasciata)
Hayden grasshopper (Derotmema haydeni)
Kiowa grasshopper (Trachyrhachys kiowa)
Mottled sand grasshopper (Spharagemon collare)
Orangelegged grasshopper (Spharagemon equale)
Pallidwinged grasshopper (Trimerotropis pallidipennis)
Redshanked grasshopper (Xanthippus corallipes)
Redwinged grasshopper (Arphia pseudonietana)
Specklewinged grasshopper (Arphia conspersa)
Threebanded grasshopper (Hadrotettix trifasciatus)
Romaleidae (Tribe Brachystolini)
Plains lubber grasshopper (Brachystola magna)
CRICKETS of the Agua Fria River Basin
KATYDIDS of the Agua Fria River Basin



  1. What is the significance of the higher and lower pitch of the songs?

    • I think the main difference is between species. There might be changes with age and with temperature as well.

      • How ptaaorsl and primordial to search for sounds in the darkness of an urban night, to listen for invisible insects playing their anatomical instruments. Wish I could have been there, but as Gertrude Stein observed once, perhaps “there is no there there.”

    • How fiittng is the metal katydid to the experience. Wonderful depiction. Isn’t it amazing that in the midst of our urban ruinous take over, nature reminds us once again that purity, and peace prevade only through her touch.

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