I have been trying to observe grasshoppers when I can, and then to identify my observations as discussed in the current thread about IDing one’s own observations when not an expert. The problem is that North America has many species of Melanoplus, many of which look similar; as of now, I have observations of that genus from two very different parts of the continent, from different habitats, yet they both have the same ID: Genus Melanoplus. I am interested in enlarging my grashopper life list, but not interested in collecting a whole lot of Melanoplus observations that just stay at genus. If I am observing a grasshopper that I think might be in this genus, what should I look for that will facilitate getting it past genus?
I can send this to an Orthop specialist and see what he says. There aren’t many users on iNat who can identify Melanoplus to species and there are new species every few years in the USA.
Is the sound distincive ? Some sounds are very characteristic
I’m in the same boat, and I found this guide when I went looking for more information. It’s specifically written for orthopterans in Iowa, which isn’t where I live, but I still found it helpful. Not sure where exactly in North America you are, but maybe you will too?
I have a related question, what’s the best way to gently get a look at a grasshopper’s wings? I found a neat one a while ago and I know wing pattern is helpful for IDs, but I couldn’t coax the wings open and I didn’t want to hurt it or overly stress it.
You might consider asking the users who ID’d your observation whether photo ID is generally possible for the genus, and if so, what characteristics you should try to photograph. In my experience, most IDers (at least, those who are not overwhelmed by notifications) are happy to offer explanations and/or tips if asked.
This is the website for looking up grasshoppers, crickets and katydids. Some species are with pictures, some without. The Melanoplus genus contains quite a lot of species. It can be narrowed down through the map.
Well, that can work when it is appliable, but in these cases, they sat at Acrididae for so long that I took it upon myself to get as far as genus.
We asked expert Brandon Woo, who identifies a lot of Vermont records on iNaturalist, if he would give some advice on how to share photographs that would best help ID species. He made this amazing guide to help all of us. Check it out on Bugguide.net
Here’s the response from a PhD who specializes in Orthoptera. I know this answer will not satisfy Jason.
Melanoplus and the subfamily Melanoplinae in general are difficult for non-experts to identify. The primary morphological characters are the male genitalia. The shapes of the male cerci are the most recognizable characters from photographs, as long as the photos show the small cerci or at least one cercus. The best resource for identification is the out of date and out of print book by J. Helfer; “How to know the grasshoppers, cockroaches and their allies.” Wm. C. Brown Company Publishers 1953. The picture keys and illustrations in the book are useful to identify North American Melanoplus and other melanoplines to the common species and species groups. Otherwise, people can look at images on the BugGuide web site, starting with a search of the genus name Melanoplus. The genus Melanoplus is currently being revised by a small team of entomologists, including a phylogeny and new species descriptions. Their results will not be out for several years yet. The best thing that iNaturalist can do is to recruit taxonomic experts for Melanoplus to identify submitted photographs. Sorry, but this is one of those many groups of insects that really do require expertise to identify. They are far from birds and butterflies on ease of identification to the species level.
…aaaaaaand even though my post was focused on identifying my iNaturalist observations, and there were replies about “there aren’t many users on iNat who can…” and “you might consider asking the users who ID’d your observation whether photo ID is generally possible for the genus, and if so, what characteristics you should try to photograph,” and even “We asked expert Brandon Woo, who identifies a lot of Vermont records on iNaturalist, if he would give some advice on how to share photographs that would best help ID species” …
…somehow this isn’t considered suitable for the “General” category? How many references to using iNaturalist does a thread need to have to stay there?
Yes, the map helps. It also helps when I can cross-reference to other sources with maps. In North Carolina, for instance, there are thirtysomething species; but after eliminating the ones endemic to the Appalachian Mountains (some of which are described as not having been observed since the type specimens were collected), and then eliminating the ones for which the habitat was wrong, that does narrow it down. I feel pretty confident about the complex at least; and as complexes are, in some non-splitter points of view, essentially species, I can be happy with that.