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Insect Life: What Grasshoppers Eat

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V. TRETIAKOV, biologist

The zoo-botanical ("bird") market in Moscow is not just a place where on Saturday and Sunday there is a lively trade in a wide variety of animals and plants, but also a kind of fascinating exhibition. Many come here with children, like in a zoo. Among traditional pets - dogs and cats, rodents and birds, fish and turtles - there are creatures that are not very popular among a wide range of wildlife creatures: lizards, frogs, snakes. And it’s an absolutely incredible product - large exotic scorpions, spiders and insects! One of the passersby squeals squeamishly, looking away to the side. Another with curiosity examines bizarre multi-legged creatures and is amazed: it turns out, "spider bugs" are sold on the market, and there are lovers who buy them. Of course, these invertebrate creatures are surprisingly original. Is there anything else for which some nature lovers keep them in their zoo corners?

In Australia, locals plant mantis on window shades. And he, not paying attention to the change of scenery, preys on flies flying into the room.

One of the oldest entertainments of the Chinese is the fighting of crickets grown in cages. Such fights attract a lot of spectators. The hosts are angry with their fighting crickets by tickling them with a small brush made from a rat's mustache. As soon as the male cricket collides with another male, they immediately enter into a duel. In these fights, “champions” were also revealed, bringing a considerable income to the owners. With the approach of autumn, the aggressiveness of crickets disappears, and the battles end.

The insects - “musicians” —crickets and grasshoppers — have long been kept in special cells by residents of South America, Africa, Portugal, and Italy. People choose the most "sweet-sounding" types of six-legged. The Italians, for example, fell in love with the local field cricket. Great connoisseurs of song insects are reputed to be Chinese and Japanese. These peoples have long traditions related to the maintenance of captive grasshoppers and crickets. For a very pleasant singing, the Chinese called one type of cricket "golden bells", and the other was given the name "noisy". For insects, they make special cells from thin branches or clay pots. Masters decorate these pots in a variety of ways, sometimes turning their products into objects of art. One Beijing museum has a collection of bizarrely painted, engraved and ivory-plated vessels for crickets. It was collected in the first half of the XV century!

Capacity, which contain insects and arachnids, modern lovers call the word "insectarium".

I would recommend keeping insects at home primarily to students interested in biology. Observations of six-legged pets will become a source of knowledge for them, well complement the school course of zoology. Interesting insects live in our fields, forests and ponds, which not only successfully take root in insectariums, but are not inferior in their originality to exotic southern species. Get to know some of them. And let's start with the "singers."

Grasshoppers have been known to everyone since childhood. But most people confuse them with mares - small, short-haired jumpers, painted in gray, brown or greenish color. These grasshoppers, large, with long and powerful jumping legs, and most importantly with long antennae, “antennas”, are traditionally called locusts (by the way, locusts belong to the same suborder of short-billed as the filly). Unfortunately, there are a lot of such annoying mistakes: for example, large dark-colored ground beetles of ground beetles (carnivorous insects very useful for the garden) are called bark beetles (!) And are willingly destroyed on occasion.

Grasshoppers - green, gray, choric, tailed and Ussuri green - are largely similar in appearance, in lifestyle, and in captivity they require the same care. Several grasshoppers should be settled in a spacious aquarium with a lid of fine mesh or a frame over which gauze is stretched. You can make a spacious insectarium from a wooden box. Large windows are cut through its walls and tightened with a net. The front wall is glass reinforced with slats so that it can be lifted and taken care of by insects. At the bottom of the tank, sand is poured with a layer of 3-4 centimeters, in the corners they plant small bushes of some grass. It is advisable to place small snags and twigs on which grasshoppers creep willingly in the grasshopper cage. When placing an insectarium in a room, it should be borne in mind that grasshoppers are very fond of taking “sun baths”.

Grasshoppers sing males. With their chirping, they call the females and at the same time warn other males that this section is already occupied. The female is easily distinguished by a long, saber-like ovipositor at the end of the abdomen. A medium-sized, with the beginnings of the wings of a young female also has a small ovipositor.

It’s easier to catch young grasshoppers than adults, who jump fast and flip from place to place among the grass. And to keep in captivity "youth" is more interesting. You will witness how a grasshopper molts, discarding the outer chitin cover, and grows, turning into an adult winged insect. The caught grasshopper should be carefully taken for two hind limbs (if for one - it will easily come off and will not be restored).

Grasshoppers are fed with tender young leaves of cereals, lettuce, slices of apples, carrots and potatoes, and always with live food. Flies, caterpillars, small butterflies and fillies, spiders are launched into the insectarium. Every morning, inside the insectarium is sprayed with water: grasshoppers drink this "dew". If the insectarium is well lit by the sun (but not constantly in the sun, because it is harmful to insects) and the grasshoppers get plenty of fresh food, they will live in captivity all their short life without problems. In August, when the laying of eggs ends, signs of aging of these handsome men are noted: grasshoppers become lethargic, their jumping legs fall off.

It is interesting to observe the swimming bugs in the aquarium and their larvae. In the reservoirs of our country, the common finfish is widespread. These beetles have a number of adaptations for life in the aquatic environment, for example, a streamlined body shape, hairs on the legs that increase the rowing surface of the limbs, and protective color. The swimmer is called fringed because of a brownish-yellow strip passing on the sides, the same stripes delimit his chest from the head and elytra. The body, on top is dark, greenish-brown, allows the beetle to be invisible to birds observing the surface of the water. And the light yellow color of the ventral side, merging with the light background of the sky, disguises it from the attack of fish. If a large fish managed to capture the beetle in its mouth, the swimmer releases caustic milky-white liquid from the breast, causing a short-term shock in the enemy, and manages to get free.

The fringed swimmer grows to 35, and the Lapland swimmer very similar to it grows to 28 millimeters. One of the largest beetles of this family is considered to be a wide swimmer, it reaches 45 millimeters in length.

Each pair of limbs swimmer performs its function. The front and middle pairs of legs serve to crawl, with the front legs of the beetle catching prey, and the middle pair - “anchors”, with which the insect is kept at a depth, clinging to the stems of plants, and sometimes holds food. The third, rear pair of limbs, is designed for swimming. She turned into a kind of oars, covered with wide, strong hairs. The rower swims with its “oars” at the same time. He can dive only by overcoming the force of pushing out with energetic swings of his hind legs. The average body density of a swimmer is less than the density of water, so it passively pops up if it does not use its legs as anchors. When swimming, the front and middle pairs of legs of the beetle presses, and they do not interfere with it.

The swimmer breathes atmospheric air, for this he has to periodically rise to the surface of the water and replenish the supply of oxygen, exposing the tip of the abdomen. The beetle has chest spiracles through which it breathes during flight. They are closed in water. The abdominal spiracles are located on the upper part of the abdomen, in the cavity, which is formed by solid, solid elytra. A pair of folded wings is located in the same cavity and the air supply is concentrated. The volume of air carried by the beetle also plays the role of a hydrostatic apparatus, providing insect buoyancy, and also helps the swimmer to passively rise to the surface. To escape from the surface in depth, the beetle exerts the efforts of its “oars”, but can also weaken these efforts by releasing air bubbles and thereby reducing its supply.

The wings of a swimmer are in a chamber with air under the elytra and therefore never get wet. At night, especially under the moon, beetles leave water bodies and fly for some time. When the pond dries, they fly to another. In flight, they are guided by vision, clearly seeing the surface of the water at night in the middle of the land. Focusing on the mirror shine of the water surface, swimmers sometimes make mistakes when falling on wet asphalt, the glass roof of a greenhouse or the shiny surface of an iron roof.

The swimmer is a nimble predator that attacks tadpoles, fish fry, snails, crustaceans and larvae of aquatic insects. Being hungry, he dares to attack frogs, newts, other swimmers, and even small fish. Well-fed swimmers can get along in an aquarium with Spur frogs, ribbed (Spanish) newts and fish, approximately equal to beetles in size. In captivity, they are fed with bloodworms, earthworms, pieces of meat and dry fish food. Beetles eat carelessly and greedily. The swimmer does not respond to the tadpole in vitro, but begins to rush about in search of a victim if a drop of blood is put into the aquarium: the role of smell is great in hunting.

In male swimmers, the forelegs have suction cups that are absent in females. They keep the female beetle during mating and can be attached to the stones and glass of the aquarium. In some females, the elytra are covered with shallow longitudinal grooves, in others - smooth, as in males. The male, sucking to the back of the female, can swim with her for more than one day. In spring, the overwintered female makes ovipositor cuts on the stems of aquatic plants and lays one egg there. In one to two months, it can lay 500-1500 eggs.

Slender, flexible, mobile swimmer larva reaches a length of 65 millimeters. This is an energetic and dangerous predator, throwing itself at any moving objects: first it grabs the object, and only then determines its edibility with the help of feelers. The larva will cling to a straw, which you decide to play with it, but then release it. It’s risky to substitute her own finger for the game. She will certainly pierce her long narrow sickle-shaped jaws into him, and, firstly, you will experience severe pain by receiving a portion of poison and a digestive enzyme that dilutes prey tissue, and secondly, you can free yourself from the predator only by tearing his head off. In nature, the larva attacks a variety of aquatic insects, leeches, snails, fish fry, tadpoles, newts. In a day, she can suck out 50 tadpoles, and in the absence of feed attack her relatives, even equal in size. The winner is the one who first managed to introduce poison into the body of the enemy. If the larvae bite each other at the same time, then both predators die.

Before pupation, the larva ceases to feed, swims only with sharp vertical jumps. It can be transplanted into the aquaterrarium, or can be placed in a pot of wet sand and moss. In dense moss, on moist soil, the larva builds a cocoon for pupation. The pupa is carefully transferred to a jar, one third filled with slightly damp sand, closed and put in the dark. After about three to four weeks, the beetle is “born”, and after another week the “newborn” is carefully released onto a plant leaf or raft floating in the aquarium.

From laying a female testicle to the appearance of a beetle, 3-5 months pass. Adult swimmer can live in captivity for 2-3 years: his entire term. These unpretentious bugs can be kept in the simplest aquariums with unheated water. On top of the aquarium cover with mesh, glass or gauze.

Where and how does he live

There are few people who do not know what a grasshopper looks like. But in scientific terms, grasshoppers are ranked as Orthoptera insects and suborder Long-nosed. They live in places where very dense grass grows. This and the grassy steppes, the edges of forests, meadows, they can be found everywhere. They can also take a fancy to themselves in the fields sown with rye, wheat and other cereals.

What grasshoppers feed on farmers harms farmers. They love to enjoy grape buds and flowers. Did you know that a grasshopper leads a mostly nocturnal lifestyle? But in the afternoon he hides in secluded places, and goes on a hunt only at dusk. By the way, he is not such a harmless insect. Grasshoppers in nature are actually predators. And although their diet also includes plant foods, the main menu is made up of small butterflies, ticks, caterpillars. Lurking in ambush, the grasshopper is waiting for prey and with powerful paws that are in front, grabs the victim. Then the “hunter”, using strong jaws, shreds the caught insect and then eats it. The size of the prey matters, the victim should not be larger than the "hunter". Grasshoppers are cannibals, they do not exclude from their menu and their small brothers, as well as their larvae. They are not gourmets, so they eat everything that occurs on the way. As it turned out, plant and animal food is what grasshoppers eat.

Another interesting fact. If you think that everything that jumps green or gray from you when you walk on the grass is grasshoppers, then no. Often they are confused with filly or locust members. He himself hid in a shelter and quietly dozing.

The life of grasshoppers is very fleeting, and is about one year, given the larvae.

Is it a grasshopper?

We are used to thinking that if a small bug buzzes and jumps, then this is probably a grasshopper. But this is not so. There is an insect similar to a grasshopper, for example, a filly or a cricket. And all because they form a single group of insects, which are called orthoptera. Mares, like grasshoppers, have two pairs of superbly developed wings and powerful hind legs. But there are serious differences between these representatives of the world insect. In the grasshoppers, the antennae are directed forward and short, while in the grasshoppers they are long, almost like the insect itself, are thin and look back. The ears of the grasshoppers are located on the sides of the body, while the grasshopper has their ears on the front legs. And the main difference is in lifestyle and diet. We found out what grasshoppers eat and that they are nocturnal insects. But, unlike them, the mares lead a daily, active lifestyle, and only plant foods make up their diet.

It is worth mentioning the cricket, which is sometimes mistaken for a grasshopper. And this is not surprising, they are very similar. The same long antennae, they also have chirping organs. But only in crickets they are larger in size and more complex. And this is not surprising, many heard him melodiously chirping. During the day, crickets, like grasshoppers, sit in secluded dark places, so they do not often come across the eyes. But at dusk they will certainly make themselves felt with their sonorous melody. They are predators, they need food rich in protein, do not disdain and small crickets. But if he lives at your place, then he can enjoy the waste from your table.

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