This is a close-up photograph. Imagine trying to spot this cryptic little creature from a standing position. Pygmy grasshoppers are actually quite common, but they go largely unnoticed because of their small size and excellent camouflage. These little grasshoppers are only a bit over ½ inch long, and even when you see one hop and are sure you saw where it landed they can be difficult to spot. My vegetable garden is home to hundreds of these, but I rarely notice them until one happens to land on the black plastic mulch on the tomato and pepper rows. They stand out against this black background, but even here they look a lot like a small clod of dirt that has gotten thrown onto the mulch as long as they sit still. Despite being so numerous in the garden, they do not appear to seriously damage any plants.
Pygmy grasshoppers are also known as ground grasshoppers and grouse locusts. The one shown here is probably the Ornate Pygmy Grasshopper, Tetrix ornata, but there are hundreds of species. They are most often seen in areas with bare ground, such as tilled fields and gardens, and many species are especially common around the edges of bodies of water, where they feed on algae.
Blake Layton, Extension Entomology Specialist, Mississippi State University Extension Service.
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