How Do Grasshoppers Make Their Noise?
For a small creature, a grasshopper makes a big noise. You may have heard grasshoppers make chirping sounds much like those made by crickets. They have two pairs of wings. The back wings are larger while the front wings are small and fairly hard.
The common brown field grasshopper “sings” by rubbing its hind legs against its hard forewings. The rough leg causes the wing to vibrate and make a sound, almost like a bow playing a violin.
It is the male who makes all the noise. The female grasshopper merely listens – not with ears on the sides of her head, but with little patches on her body that are sensitive to the sounds the male makes.
She finds the male by following his rasping call. Sometimes the male makes his noise to warn away his enemies.
There are over 650 species of grasshoppers in North America, a huge number to be sure, and most of these are western in distribution. Unlike the noisy meadow katydids, the majority of grasshoppers do not stridulate.
But there is one group, the slant-faced grasshoppers, (Marsh Meadow Grasshopper) that are known for their soft and muffled songs. Males of this group “fiddle their tunes” by rubbing pegs on the inner surface of their hind femurs against the edges of their forewings.
Another group, the band-winged grasshoppers, (Carolina and Boll’s Grasshoppers) make an entirely different kind of sound. Males, and sometimes females, make loud snapping or crackling sounds with their wings as they fly, especially during courtship flights.
This unique mode of sound production is called “crepitation,” the snapping sounds apparently being produced when the membranes between veins are suddenly popped taut (band-wings also stridulate, but their songs are typically weak and subtle).