Identification

Grasshoppers and crickets are members of the group of insects known as orthopteroids. All have biting mouthparts and go through incomplete metamorphosis, the nymphs often having similar habits to the adult. They have paired appendages (cerci) that extend from the tip of the abdomen.

Grasshoppers and crickets are characterised by hind legs that are enlarged for jumping. They are medium to large insects with long slender bodies and two pairs of wings, although these may be reduced or non-existent in some species. The females of many crickets have a large sword-like egg laying organ (ovipositor); this can be 24 mm long in the great green bush cricket.

Size

Lengths range from 4 mm (the lesser earwig) to 115 mm (the unarmed stick insect).

Distribution

Everywhere in the UK, but no mantises are resident. Many species have very restricted ranges and some, such as the wart biter bush cricket and field cricket are thought to be at the northern edge of their climatic range in southern England. There are no native stick insects in Britain, but three introduced species have become established out of doors in parts of south west England and the Scilly Isles.

Status

Over 25000 species of orthopteroid insect have been described worldwide. Only 52 species are resident in the UK, 14 of which are non-native aliens. The wart biter bush cricket, field cricket and mole cricket have some protection under UK law. Biodiversity action plans have been developed for four species.

Where to find them in the garden

Grasshoppers, such as the meadow grasshopper may be heard chirping in areas with long grass. Bush crickets, such as the speckled bush cricket and the 50 mm long great green bush cricket, may be found in areas with trees and shrubs.

Role in the garden

Of the orthopteroid insects, only the common earwig has a noteworthy effect in gardens, occasionally chewing on leaves and flowers of plants. In south west England non-native stick insects can sometimes be found browsing on a variety of trees and shrubs. Most of the other orthopteroids can be considered part of garden wildlife, including three native species of cockroach (Ectobius spp), which feed on seeds and other detritus and do not enter buildings nor are they hygiene pests.