Length: 2 - 2.5 inches
Also Called: the children of the Lightning Man or Namarrgon
The Leichhardt's grasshopper is named after explorer Ludwig Leichhardt, who first
discovered and wrote about this species in 1845. This grasshopper's appearance is striking
compared to most other grasshopper species, with its bright orange-colored body marked with blue and bright red. Adult males are slightly smaller and thinner than the females. Like
other grasshoppers, they have an exoskeleton made of a material called chitin. This
protects them and helps their bodies to retain moisture, especially on the hottest days.
Although they do have wings and can use them to fly, they seem to be reluctant to fly for
long distances, and really don't travel or migrate much at all during their lifetime.
Unlike some other grasshopper species that have varied diets, the Leichhardt's
grasshopper prefers a plant called pityrodia, and nothing else. An adult will most likely
spend much of its life on just one "host" pityrodia plant, first living around the plant's base after it hatches, then gradually moving higher up on the plant as it matures to adulthood.
The Leichhardt's grasshopper is found in the rugged country of Kakadu, in the Northern
Territory of Australia. Most of the area where this grasshopper lives is pretty remote, and
in a National Park. Because of this, not that much is known yet about how widely
distributed the Leichhardt's is in this area. Although its food source is widely distributed
and plentiful, it is believed that the number of grasshoppers remains low due to predators
and factors such as the controlled burning that takes place in the Northern Territory
National Park that is their primary habitat.
Although the bright coloring of the Leichhardt's grasshopper may serve as a warning that it tastes bad and may keep some predators like birds away from it, it doesn't deter others such as spiders, wasps, and other insects who want to feed on it or its eggs. It may also become prey for reptiles or amphibians.
Much of the grasshopper's day is spent resting, backing in the sun, or feeding. During the
hottest part of the day it may seek shelter from the sun on the shady parts of its host
The Leichhardt's grasshopper hatches early in the dry season (usually in April), and then
goes through seven stages, or instars, of growth between hatching and adulthood. After
each stage it sheds its exoskeleton as it grows. It starts life as a nymph, which looks like
a grasshopper but is very tiny, with barely noticeable wing stubs. It is much duller in
coloring as well, probably to help protect it from predators. The nymph grows slowly until
August, when humidity and temperatures are higher, and the host plants are growing
more quickly too. After the seven stages of growth the grasshopper finally takes on its
more colorful appearance and by November looks like the other adult grasshoppers. By
January or February the grasshoppers are fully mature and mating has taken place. The
females start to lay their eggs in the ground, and another cycle of life will soon begin.
Like other grasshoppers, the Leichhardt's grasshopper uses its antennae to feel and
smell. It has two pairs of eyes, "simple" and "compound", to see. A round membrane
located on either side of its body near its hind legs called a "tympanum" allows it to detect
sound waves. It uses the parts of its mouth called palps to taste things. It has spiracles,
or tiny holes located all along the abdomen, which allow it to breathe.