Chorthippus brunneus (Thunberg)   
Field Grasshopper

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Subphylum: Hexapoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Orthoptera – grasshoppers, locusts and crickets

British distribution: Throughout Britain but scarcer northwards and local and mainly coastal in Scotland, seemingly not reaching the north coast. Sparse or under-recorded in Ireland.
World distribution: Widespread in Europe, Asia, N. Africa.

Chorthippus brunneus, adult female in dune heathland, Wigtownshire, August 2004.

Chorthippus brunneus is much the most common brown grasshopper of grassy habitats throughout much of Britain. Like other members of the order Orthoptera it has:
long, powerful hind legs enabling it to jump.
'leathery', straight-veined fore-wings that protect the delicate, membranous hind-wings.
powerful, biting mouthparts.
ability to 'stridulate' – the action of rubbing two body parts together to produce sound. In the case of the grasshopers (family Acrididae, grasshoppers and locusts), this is done by rubbing the hind legs against the toughened veins of the fore-wings, the inner side of the femur (upper leg) in most species (in the male) having small, peg-like projections for this purpose. The result is a 'chirping' song characteristic for each species. In general, in the grasshoppers, stridulation is done by the male, to attract receptive females, which might reply more quietly.

Immature ('nymph') grasshoppers are smaller, with vestigial wings.

Identification and variation
C. brunneus is usually pale brown in colour, though it can be partly or entirely green. Attention to detailed characters is required for certain identification.
The top plate of the thorax is the pronotum, which has conspicuous white keels that are sharply angled inwards, providing immediate separation from brown forms of the usually green Chorthippus parallelus. There is a noticable pale margin to the posterior edge of the pronotum, enclosing the black region when this is present.
Myrmeleotettix maculatus is a similar but smaller species with much the same range of colouring and rather similar in its pronotal markings, but the antennae of M. maculatus are slightly thickened at the tips, especially so in the male. Gomphocerippus rufus is a scarce, very southern species that might also be taken for C. brunneus but which again differs in its distinctly clubbed, white-tipped antennae.
Excellent descriptions and illustrations are given in Ragge (1965) and Marshall & Haes (1988), the former work including detailed descriptions of the numerous colour variants.

C. brunneus is a warmth-loving grasshopper that does best in sunny situations in short, dry grassland and dry, grassy heathland. As the top photograph shows, it is well camouflaged in the 'grey dune' stage of dune heath. It is a frequent colonist of roadsides and urban wasteground and is characteristic of 'brown field' areas. It flies readily, no doubt aiding it to colonise new sites.

Eggs hatch from May onwards and individuals reach adulthood in June, July or thereafter (Marshall & Haes, 1988).

•   Marshall, J.A., & Haes, E.C.M., (1988). Grasshoppers and allied insects of Great Britain and Ireland, Harley Books, Colchester.
•   Ragge, D.R., (1965). Grasshoppers, crickets and cochroaches of the British Isles, F. Warne, Wayside & Woodland Series, London.

© A.J. Silverside
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