Moulting of a grasshopper

posted in: Fauna | 2

Amy Tsang came across a grasshopper that she managed to photograph while accompanying KC to Pasir Ris Park on a spider mission.

Wrote Amy: “I was very thrilled when I realised I had spotted a grasshopper which was newly moulted. I had not seen one before in this state. The new wings were light yellow in colour and looked soft and fresh. It looked like a ‘skirt’ when viewed at certain angles (above, below).

“The grasshopper was pretty still when it first moulted. In one of my pixs, its eyes look like they were closed to me, and I wondered if the moulting process took its toil on the grasshopper and now it was actually very tired and catnapping!” added Amy.

“Looking closer at this grasshopper, whose identity I have yet to know, it seemed to have the strangest looking eyes! There were bands of dashes across its eyeball. I wondered why, as most insects don’t seem to spot such ‘banded’ eyes,” continued Amy.

The image above shows it at rest. That below shows it’s wings folded up in the ‘normal’ position assumed by grasshoppers.

Zoologist and avid naturalist Dr Leong Tzi Ming identified the grasshopper as Xenocatantops humilis, a rather common species of grassland and forest edge. “However, although it may be a common and widespread species, certain momentary aspects of its life, such as moulting and mating are seldom documented. So this is a refreshing contribution,” added Tzi Ming.

A newly hatched grasshopper, known as a nymph, has no wings and thus cannot fly. It needs to go through about five stages before becoming a fully mature adult with wings and all. Each stage, known as a moult, involves shedding its exoskeleton and replacing it with a new one. This is necessary as the exoskeleton cannot expand as the body increases in size with each stage of growth. The above encounter most probably shows the final stage of moulting as the grasshopper emerges as a fully adult individual.

Amy Tsang (text and images) & Dr Leong Tzi Ming (grasshopper ID)
November 2014

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