Hopping with life
Why not have a search for grasshoppers and bush-crickets in your local churchyard. Churchyards can be real havens for them as they contain a range of different habitats which may suit different species. Some are found in long or tussocky grass, some scrub and hedgerows, and some in the canopy of trees. Some burial grounds can have more than 3 grasshoppers per square foot!
The easiest way to identify grasshoppers from bush-crickets is to look at their antennae. Grasshoppers have shorter, thicker antennae compared to the antennae of crickets which are long and thin, almost hairlike. Another difference is in their habits, grasshoppers are herbivores, feeding mainly on grass as their name suggests, whilst bush-crickets eat a range of foods including aphids and small caterpillars as well as plant material. These insects have been around on the earth for a long time, they are found in the fossil record of the early Triassic, about 250 million years ago, making them the most ancient group of herbivorous, chewing insects that are still living.
Grasshoppers and crickets are tasty prey items to many larger creatures such as birds, mammals, spiders and amphibians so they have good senses to help them escape this fate. They have large, compound eyes on the sides of their heads, giving a wide field of vision, ears on either side of their abdomens and of course the antennae to sense touch. If under threat they will jump astounding distances, up to 80cm, equivalent to a human jumping the length of a football pitch.
Have a look for grasshoppers within the long and tussocky grass of your churchyard or shake a tree or shrub branch over something white like a bedsheet or plastic tray to see if any bush-crickets fall down. Showing these special creatures to children opens up a world of delight and interest.
All the best,
Diocesan Churchyard Environmental Advisor
www.caringforgodsacre.org.uk - individuals and groups in the diocese receive 20% members discount on all CfGA materials. Use the discount code diomem22