The Sex Determination System in Grasshoppers

By Jane Meggitt

Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Although grasshopper species differ somewhat in appearance, they all sport three distinct body segments. These consist of the head, thorax and abdomen. If you're examining a grasshopper specimen, it's the abdomen that allows you to identify the insect's sex. If you can't obtain a specimen, you can figure out the sex by watching grasshoppers during mating season.

Male Grasshoppers

Male grasshoppers are smaller than females. That's the easiest way to tell the difference if you don't have a specimen in hand. If you do have a grasshopper to examine, check the end of the abdomen. Grown males have a hard and smooth plate on the abdomen's end, which ranges in size from small to quite prominent. There are no protrusions from the blunt end of the male's abdomen. Inside the abdomen, the male has two testes, each of which joins a vas deferens, or sperm duct. These ducts join another, single duct for ejaculatory purposes.

Female Grasshoppers

At the end of their abdomens, females have four pointed protrusions, darker than the rest of their bodies. These are the ovipositors, which help her dig holes in which to deposit her fertilized eggs. These protrusions generally are closed, but could be open if the female recently laid eggs. Inside the body, her ovaries consist of ova-producing egg tubes. Each ovary adjoins an oviduct, which leads to the vagina. Female grasshopper anatomy includes a spermatheca, which stores sperm after mating.

Grasshopper Reproduction

Male grasshoppers court females. They fly about, snapping their wings to attract mates. The sounds they make are species-specific, according to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Males also scrape their hind legs against the forewing to create music for a female grasshopper's ears, which are located on her abdomen, not her head. Mating consists of the male depositing sperm into the vagina, where it heads into the spermatheca before entering the eggs.

Egg Laying

In winter, female grasshoppers lay pods of eggs, with each pod containing 25 eggs or more. Pods, approximately 1 inch long, are laid about 1 inch deep in grassy soils. The nymphs hatch each spring. These little grasshoppers resemble adults except they don't have wings and their reproductive organs haven't matured. Depending on the species, nymphs go through several molts before reaching adulthood between the ages of 40 and 60 days, along with the capacity to reproduce. Some grasshopper species produce only one generation annually, while others produce two or three.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images

Author

Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.