Orthoptera

Orthoptera

Orthoptera are primitive insects in that they do not have a pupal stage, hatching from the egg into small versions of the adult, then have a number of instars during the spring before becoming an adult in summer. Like most insects they prefer a warm or hot micro-climate within their habitat. Orthoptera in its strictest sense includes the grasshoppers, bush-crickets, crickets and groundhoppers. Traditionally the cockroaches (Dictyoptera) and earwigs (Dermaptera) have been recorded with the true Orthoptera and often included in identification books and county checklists.

Generally, the grasshoppers and bush-crickets are the most obvious species and found in a range of habitats although their abundance may vary from year-to-year. Groundhoppers are much less obvious and therefore under-recorded, and are best sought in bare and often damp situations both inland and on the coast. Our three native cockroaches also require a determined search, often being found beneath vegetation or under stones, although Dusky Cockroach Ectobius lapponicus can sometimes be found ‘basking’ on the foliage of low shrubs.

Heath Grasshopper Chorthippus vagans

Heath Grasshopper Chorthippus vagans

Photo: Bryan Edwards

Dorset, especially Purbeck, has long been famed for its diversity of Orthoptera due to the presence of rarities such as Wartbiter Decticus verrucivorus, Large Marsh Grasshopper Stethophyma grossum and Heath Grasshopper Chorthippus vagans. The Poole Basin heaths and coast are particularly rich, due to a combination of a warm and sunny climate and relatively large areas of semi-natural vegetation, although south-facing slopes of chalk downland in the north of the county can also support a good range of species.

Habitats important for Orthoptera in Dorset:

  • Lowland heaths and mires
  • Chalk & limestone grassland
  • Soft clay & sand cliffs
  • Meadows & marshes
  • Acid grassland
  • Open woodland, rides and coppice

Other the last 25 years our Orthoptera fauna has been particularly dynamic with significant increases northwards in the range of Long-winged Conehaed Conocephalus fuscus and more recently westwards of Roesel’s Bush Cricket Metrioptera roeselii. We have also seen the arrival of new species such as the Southern Oak Bush-cricket Meconema meridionale which has become established in several places along the coast. These changes are thought to be due to a warming climate and have been mirrored elsewhere in northwest Europe.

Bryan Edwards

Recording

Records can be input directly through the Living Record page, or we are happy to receive them on an Excel spreadsheet (see our Sending In Your Records page).

National Recording Schemes

Grasshoppers and Related Insects Recording Scheme of Britain and Ireland:

www.orthoptera.org.uk

Checklist of Dorset Orthoptera

Checklist of Dorset Orthoptera and Allies

DERC Publication

The Grasshoppers, Bush-crickets & Allies of Dorset (2011)

Available from the DERC office at £10.00 (inc. p&p).