Hartlebury Common has four different species of grasshoppers, Common Green, Field, Meadow and Mottled. These vegetarian insects can be heard singing (or stridulating) across the Common in summer. They produce their song by rubbing their long hind legs against their wings to produce the familiar rattling sound. Most grasshoppers can be found in a variety of grasslands but the Mottled Grasshopper is a true heathland specialist, requiring the hot, humid conditions associated with this habitat. They are small and well camouflaged but the male has butterfly- like clubs on the end of his antennae making him quite distinctive when found.
There are also two species of groundhoppers, smaller relatives of grasshoppers found here, Common and Slender. These are also vegetarians, feeding on mosses especially around old fire-sites but they do not sing. Add to that five species of bush- cricket (Dark, Long- winged Conehead, Oak, Roesel’s and Speckled) and there is enough variety to keep the inquisitive mind happy trying to see the differences. Bush- crickets are omnivorous, feeding on vegetation and small invertebrates. They sing by rubbing hard pads on their wings across each other which produces a high-pitched series of chirps which many people find hard to hear. Speckled Bush- cricket is the one most often encountered and is bright green with tiny black spots.
Useful guides to identifying Grasshoppers and Bush- crickets and can be found at the following links:
Dark Bush-cricket (Pholidoptera griseoaptera)
These flightless crickets can be found in late summer, often sunbathing on leaves. They feed on insects like caterpillars and aphids as well as the leaves of bramble and nettles, amongst other plants. Despite their rather cumbersome appearance they can move quickly and have a prodigious jump. You may hear them chirping as you take in the sounds of the Common. They can be seen between May to November. The photo shows a female, with her upturned ovipositor which she uses to lay her eggs in dead branches, bark crevices or rotting wood. The young crickets go through seven stages before becoming adults, over a period of two years.
Meadow Grasshopper (Chorthippus parallelus)
The Meadow Grasshopper is the only flightless grasshopper in the UK and possesses no hind wings. It is found in unimproved pasture, meadows and grasslands. It is a species that is variable in colour between green and brown and some adult females can even be a vivid pinkish purple. The adults appear in June and can be abundant through to the Autumn
Mottled Grasshopper (Myrmeleotettix maculatus)
The Mottled Grasshopper is the star species from this group on the Common. It is a heathland specialist and Hartlebury Common is one of only a handful of sites where it is found in the county.
It is a small grasshopper that is very variable in colour and markings. It is usually mottled in appearance which makes for excellent camouflage. The pronotum is short and the side keels kick in very sharply. The male is easily identified as it has a club- shaped tip to its antennae (this can be seen on the header for the Grasshoppers and Bush-crickets section which shows a front on view of a male Mottled Grasshopper). None of the Common’s other grasshoppers have this feature. The female only (shown in the adjacent photo) has slightly thickened antennae tips.
Roesel’s Bush-cricket (Metrioptera roeselii)
Speckled Bush-cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima)
The Speckled Bush- cricket is a common species of well vegetated areas such as woodland margins and hedgerows. This flightless cricket is green in colour and is covered in tiny black spots that give it its name. It also has a pale brown stripe that runs down its back. Like the Dark Bush-cricket the female has a sabre- like upturned oviposter which it uses for laying its eggs in the bark of trees and shrubs. Adult Speckled Bush-crickets can be seen from late July until early November