One of my favorite things to do when I was growing up was to go out into the backyard and sit under a tree. My grandpa would sit with me and if we were really lucky, we would spot something fun to watch, like maybe a grasshopper. This used to give us lots of time to talk about what eats grasshoppers?
Grasshoppers are common in grasslands but are eaten by many different kinds of predators. Research suggests that the common predators of grasshoppers are birds, lizards, snakes, spiders, and centipedes. Not only are grasshoppers eaten by numerous bird and mammal species, but they are also devoured by spiders, insects, and even amphibians.
Grasshoppers have many predators in the animal kingdom, ranging from mammals and birds to reptiles, amphibians, and other insects. In the wild, raccoons, red foxes, opossums, and hedgehogs are their major enemies. Small rodents like grasshopper mice also prey on them. Among the birds, the hawks, jays, junglefowl, and blackbirds are their common predators. Most of the reptiles and amphibians, including turtles, snakes, frogs, and salamanders, are active hunters of the grasshoppers. In the family of insects, grasshoppers are food to many, including yellow jackets, carpenter ants, and mantids.
Grasshoppers are such a large part of the insect world, so you’d think top predators would be hard to find. However, their size alone is a major reason why they are seldom eaten by something else.
For example, grasshopper nymphs are roughly half of an inch long when fully mature and can easily escape being eaten by most insects and birds (some birds though do prey on them).
In this post, you’ll learn more about the animals that either consume grasshoppers exclusively or as a part of their diet.
Mammals that eat Grasshoppers
Raccoons (Procyon lotor)
The Raccoons are a North American mammal that belongs to the Procyonid family, a family that consists of small-to-medium-sized, omnivore mammals, such as ringtails, olingos, and coatis.
You can easily recognize these mammals by their masked, ninja-like face and thick rings of black and white on their tail. Although they mostly inhabit deciduous woods, they have adapted to living in urban areas as well, where they’re considered to be pests.
Just like the other procyonids, raccoons are omnivores, too. They’re nocturnal feeders, with about 40% of their diet consisting of insects and worms, including grasshoppers. Plant materials and small vertebrates, such as crayfish, amphibians, and bird eggs, make up the rest of their diet.
The Opossums are a large family of marsupials that belong to the order of Didephimorphia, consisting of over 110 recognized species, divided into 19 genera.
Although they were originally native to South America, many of them found their way to North America during the Great American Interchange and have been living here ever since.
When it comes to food, the opossums are omnivores with a diverse and flexible diet. They can eat animals, birds, rodents, amphibians, insects, eggs, fruits, plants, and grains.
The Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is a North American opossum species that predominantly feed on insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, and crickets. This opossum also happens to be the only member of its family found in the United States.
The Hedgehogs are small, spiny mammals that belong to the same family as the Moonrats (Erinaceidae).
There are 17 recognized species of these mammals globally that can be found in Europe, Africa, and Asia. Although their spines are similar to that of the echidnas and the porcupines, the three are unrelated.
Although hedgehogs are omnivores, they primarily feed on insects (beetles, grasshoppers, and crickets), slugs and snails, frogs, snakes, and bird eggs. Berries, grassroots, mushrooms, and other fruits are the secondary part of their diet.
Some of the grasshopper-eating hedgehogs are as follows:
- Algerian Hedgehogs (Atelerix algirus)
- Fur-toed Hedgehogs (Atelerix albiventris)
- Bare-bellied Hedgehogs (Paraechinus nudiventris)
Red Foxes (Vulpes vulpes)
Belonging to the genus of True Foxes (Vulpes), the Red Foxes are a fox species that have the most widespread population across North America, North Africa, Europe, and Asia.
These foxes are also the largest members of their genus. They have a long body with relatively short limbs and a longer tail than their entire body length. Not only can these foxes jump over the height of approximately 2 meters, but they’re also exceptional swimmers.
Red foxes have an exceptionally varied diet that consists of over 300 different animal species, in addition to the plant-based foods they can eat.
Rodents like gophers, voles, deer mice, woodchucks, ground squirrels, hamsters, and gerbils are a part of their primary diet. Insects like grasshoppers and other invertebrates are secondary in their diet.
Among plant-based, these foxes commonly eat plums, apples, mulberries, acorns, cherries, persimmons, and grapes foods.
Grasshopper Mice (Onychomys)
The Grasshopper Mice is a North American genus of the New World Mice that consists of the following 3 recognized species:
- Southern Grasshopper Mice (Onychomys torridus)
- Northern Grasshopper Mice (Onychomys leucogaster)
- Mearns’s Grasshopper Mice (Onychomys arenicola)
As their name suggests, these mice are carnivores (primarily insectivores) that feed on insects like grasshoppers, spiders, centipedes, worms, beetles, crickets, and scorpions. However, they are also known to occasionally stalk and kill other rodents, such as white-footed mice, kangaroo rats, and voles.
Birds that eat Grasshoppers
The term “bluebird” refers to a group of medium-sized passerine birds that belong to the thrush family (Turdidae).
These birds are known for possessing characteristic blue or blue and rose beige plumage and display sexual dimorphism.
Among the sexes, the males have a brighter appearance than their female counterparts. There are 3 recognized species in this genus:
- Western Bluebirds (Sialia mexicana)
- Mountain Bluebirds (Sialia currucoides)
- Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis)
Bluebirds have an omnivorous diet that primarily consists of berries and insects. Insects like beetles, grasshoppers, crickets, earthworms, spiders, slugs, and snails are commonly consumed by them.
Occasionally, they have also been found feeding on tree frogs and some small lizard species.
Known for their sharp vision and ferocious hunting skills, the hawks are a group of birds of prey with a wide distribution worldwide.
All hawks species vary greatly, with the Ferruginous Hawks (Buteo regalis) being the largest species and the Sharp-shinned Hawks (Accipiter striatus) the smallest.
Unlike most other raptors, the hawks usually hunt smaller animals such as lizards, fish, mice, snakes, rabbits, squirrels, and smaller birds. Several hawk species prey on insects as well.
The Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) is an example of one such hawk; insects like crickets and grasshoppers make up a bulk of their diet. Moreover, these hawks also like feeding on the doves.
Blackbirds (Turdus merula)
Also referred to as the “Common Blackbird” and “Eurasian Blackbird,” the Blackbirds are a medium-sized bird species belonging to the true thrush family.
These birds display a significant sexual dimorphism. The males have black plumage with slightly brownish legs, a remarkable yellow eye-ring, and an orangish-yellow bill. On the other hand, the plumage of the females is sooty brown, with a whitish-brown throat, mottled breast, and yellowish-brown bill.
Blackbirds are omnivores, with both insects and berries being equally essential in their diet.
Although earthworms make a large part of their diet, they’ve also been found hunting caterpillars, grasshoppers, and crickets. Seeds, berries, and other fallen fruits are oven consumed by them during the winters.
Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata)
Endemic to the eastern parts of North America, the Blue Jays are medium-sized passerine birds that belong to the corvid family.
These birds display minimal sexual dimorphism, with both sexes having a white face and lavender-blue crest, wings, back, and tail; only females are slightly smaller than males.
Although the blue jays have a strong black bill to help them break down nuts and acorns, those are not the only things they eat.
These omnivorous birds have a varied diet consisting of nuts, berries, weeds, seeds, and small invertebrates like grasshoppers, flies, crickets, and beetles.
Chickens (Gallus gallus domesticus)
Chickens are a medium-sized, domesticated subspecies of the wild Red Junglefowl (Gallus gallus) members of the Phasianidae family.
Humans have domesticated these poultry birds for their meat as well as eggs. However, many people also keep them as backyard pets these days.
In the wild, the chickens are quite the opportunistic feeders that would eat anything edible they can find, including a wide range of edible plants, seeds, fruits, berries, as well as small invertebrates such as potato beetles, grasshoppers, termites, hookworms, ticks, centipedes, slugs, snails, and spiders.
Popular across the world for their meat, the turkeys are large, North American birds that belong to the genus of Meleagris. Although the turkeys used to have a much larger family earlier, only two extant species are currently remaining:
- Ocellated Turkey (Meleagris ocellata)
- Wild Turkey (Meleagris galopavo)
Turkeys are omnivores that change their diet in accordance with the changing seasons. Leaves and grasses are their staple diet in the spring, while during fall, they feed on fruits, seeds, berries, and insects.
Reptiles and Amphibians that eat Grasshoppers
Turtles are the only reptiles, besides tortoises, that have an outer shell developed from their ribs, providing them with a protective shield.
Known to exist for over 160 million years, these are the oldest reptile groups, even older than the crocodiles or snakes. There are about 360 extant turtle species globally, out of which some are on the verge of extinction.
Turtles can be semi-aquatic, aquatic, and marine, with their diet being as varied as their family. Following are the most popular examples of insectivore turtle species that also feed on grasshoppers:
- Eastern Box Turtles (Terrapene carolina carolina)
- Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans)
Northern Ringneck Snakes (Diadophis punctatus edwardsii)
Named after the remarkable, yellowish-orange ring around their necks, the Northern Ringneck Snakes are a subspecies of the Ring-necked Snakes (Diadophis punctatus) that are endemic to North America.
Other than the ring of these snakes, the rest of their body is dark, with its color ranging from bluish-grey to black.
Northern ringneck snakes are carnivores just like the other snake species and are quite fond of eating the Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus). They also eat grasshoppers, slugs, earthworms, frogs, insects, small lizards, and even other smaller snake species.
With over 6,000 recognized species and a widespread population in almost every part of the world, lizards are among the largest reptile families.
They can vary greatly in size, with the largest lizard species, Komodo Dragons being over 3-meter long, and the smallest (Geckos) being only a couple of centimeters long.
Despite the differences in their size, all lizard species are predatory and feed on the terrestrial invertebrates most commonly, such as grasshoppers, spiders, crickets, beetles, etc.
Frogs are a group of short-bodied, tailless creatures with the largest family among the amphibians, consisting of over 7,300 recognized species.
These carnivores can live in a wide range of habitats, ranging from tropical to sub-arctic. While they can inhabit both land and water, the process of egg-laying always takes place in water, where the eggs hatch into tadpoles, aquatic larvae.
Almost all frog species are generalist predators. In other words, they would feed on any living thing that can fit into their mouths. Spiders, grasshoppers, moths, butterflies, beetles, wasps, and crickets are the common diet of the frogs.
Although the salamanders might appear to be just like lizards at first glance, the two are very different from each other when examined closely.
Unlike the dry, scaly skin of the lizards, salamanders have porous and moist skin. They also have shorter limbs and lack ear openings and claws.
Being carnivores, the salamanders consume a varied diet that includes slugs, snails, worms, fish, crustaceans, and insects. Following are some of the grasshopper-eating salamander species:
- Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum)
- Northern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus)
- Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)
Insects that eat Grasshoppers
Bald-faced Hornets (Dolichovespula maculata)
Also referred to as “White-faced Hornet,” “Bull Wasp,” and “Spruce Wasp,” the Bald-faced Hornets are a species of eusocial wasps belonging to the Vespidae family. Although their name has “Hornet” in it, these insects are not true hornets but a type of Yellowjacket wasps.
Like every other Yellowjacket, the bald-faced hornets are also a predatory species that feed on several types of insects, including crickets, beetles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, and other flies.
Carpenter Ants (Camponotus)
Endemic to the forests and woodlands, the Carpenter Ants are a large ant species that receive their name due to their tendency of carving out their nests in woods (preferably damp).
Contrary to popular belief, these ants are not wood-eaters like the termite. In fact, they’re both predators as well as scavengers, eating dead and alive insects as well as honeydew produced by the aphids.
Closely related to the termites and cockroaches, the order of mantids consists of over 2,400 species found in the temperate and tropical regions of all continents.
These insects have a triangular head and an elongated body, with or without wings. While their small hindlegs keep them upright, the forelegs are enlarged to help them catch their prey.
Because of these upright limbs that look a lot like folded hands, they’re commonly called “Praying Mantis.” Mantids prey on most arthropods, including spiders, grasshoppers, and crickets.
Conclusion: What Eats Grasshoppers?
To recap, grasshoppers fall prey to spiders, lizards, birds, and large insects such as centipedes and other beetles. Some of these animals will even prey on other insects, which reduces the number of grasshopper predators considerably.
And according to research, grasshopper predation actually helps the environment by controlling the growth of large populations of these harmful bugs.
We discussed a lot of different grasshopper predators, so it can be hard to remember everything. But you can bookmark this tab and come back if you need to refresh your memory!
Hopefully, you found some interesting facts and learned something new about the fascinating world of grasshopper predators. You’ll be able to impress your friends next time you go outside to practice your grasshopper chucking skills.
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There’s so much to learn, and there’s an entire Animal Kingdom that we could talk about, but alas, all things must come to an end (except for the universe, because that will never end).
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18 Types of Grasshoppers in Florida (with pictures)