Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Datasheet

Schistocerca nitens
(gray bird grasshopper)

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Datasheet

Schistocerca nitens (gray bird grasshopper)

Summary

  • Last modified
  • 27 September 2018
  • Datasheet Type(s)
  • Invasive Species
  • Pest
  • Preferred Scientific Name
  • Schistocerca nitens
  • Preferred Common Name
  • gray bird grasshopper
  • Taxonomic Tree
  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •   Kingdom: Metazoa
  •     Phylum: Arthropoda
  •       Subphylum: Uniramia
  •         Class: Insecta
  • Summary of Invasiveness
  • S. nitens (Thunberg) is a short-horned grasshopper classified in the Family Acrididae. It is native to southwestern North America, Central America and northern South America. It was first reported as invasive i...

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Pictures

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PictureTitleCaptionCopyright
Schistocerca nitens (gray bird grasshopper); adult at rest. USA.
TitleAdult
CaptionSchistocerca nitens (gray bird grasshopper); adult at rest. USA.
Copyright©Whitney Cranshaw/Colorado State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US
Schistocerca nitens (gray bird grasshopper); adult at rest. USA.
AdultSchistocerca nitens (gray bird grasshopper); adult at rest. USA.©Whitney Cranshaw/Colorado State University/Bugwood.org - CC BY 3.0 US

Identity

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Preferred Scientific Name

  • Schistocerca nitens Thunberg 1815

Preferred Common Name

  • gray bird grasshopper

Other Scientific Names

  • Gryllus columbinus Thunberg 1824
  • Gryllus nitens Thunberg 1815
  • Schistocerca australis
  • Schistocerca impleta (Walker)
  • Schistocerca vaga

International Common Names

  • English: vagant, grasshopper, large; vagrant grasshopper
  • Spanish: langosta; langosta maicera

Local Common Names

  • Mexico: chapulin; chapulin volador; langosta maicera
  • USA: gray bird locust; vagrant grasshopper

EPPO code

  • SHICNN (Schistocerca nitens)
  • SHICVA (Schistocerca vaga)

Summary of Invasiveness

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S. nitens (Thunberg) is a short-horned grasshopper classified in the Family Acrididae. It is native to southwestern North America, Central America and northern South America. It was first reported as invasive in the Hawaiian archipelago in 1964 and is now present on all the main Hawaiian islands. S. nitens is solitary and non-migratory, but under certain conditions can form swarms or outbreaks and cause damage to crops and native plant species. In 2002 and 2004 outbreaks on the Hawaiian island of Nihoa posed a threat to all the vegetation on the island, particularly endangered plant species.

Taxonomic Tree

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  • Domain: Eukaryota
  •     Kingdom: Metazoa
  •         Phylum: Arthropoda
  •             Subphylum: Uniramia
  •                 Class: Insecta
  •                     Order: Orthoptera
  •                         Family: Acrididae
  •                             Genus: Schistocerca
  •                                 Species: Schistocerca nitens

Notes on Taxonomy and Nomenclature

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The grasshopper Schistocerca nitens Thunberg (1815) was originally named Gryllus nitens, and has subsequently been named as S. vagaScudder (1899), S. vagaHubbell (1960) and, more recently, S. nitens nitensDirsh (1974). The Nitens Group of the genus Schistocerca is a diverse and problematic one due to the variability present both within species and across them. Widespread species in this group, such as S. nitens, have local populations adapted to specific habitats (Song, 2004), which, along with morphological similarities and inadequate taxonomic methods (i.e. morphological phylogeny), was probably the cause of misidentification of species as Schistocerca nitens nitens which resulted in many synonymies and subspecies (Dirsh, 1974). Internal male genitalia are the only structures that can distinguish closely related species. According to Song (2004), S. nitens is the most problematic species in its group due to its external character similarities with other species and variation within itself. The genus in the western hemisphere is monophyletic, with S. americana being phylogenetically closest to S. nitens, although S. americana is not sedentary and ocassionally forms swarms.

In the Caribbean, Dirsh (1974) identified the subspecies S. nitens caribbeana but Song (2004) disagreed, naming it as the species S. caribbeana. Likewise, subspecies described by Dirsh as S. nitens virginica, S. nitens nitens and S. nitens columbina are considered species and not subspecies. S. nitens is also known as S. vaga (Scudder) in the USA (Bianchi and Kajiwara, 1966). S. nitens is evolutionarily considered a relatively recent species in the Western Hemisphere (Bowler et al., 1977).

Description

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Male adults are 24 to 46 mm long and females 57 to 66 mm long (Barrientos-Lozano, 2003). The medial pronotal carina is cut by three transversal sulcus; the posterior femur has black dots on the external upper part. The prosternal tuberculum is straight and smaller than in S. pallens. Nymphs and young adults possess a mild subocular fringe.

Its hind tibia shows one inner dorsal apical immovable spine at tip. The species has a conical or cylindrical tubercle between the front coxae and the face usually is not strongly slanted backwards. This grasshopper species belongs to the Subfamily Cyrtacanthacridinae (Bird Grasshoppers) which are relatively large insects with tegmina usually >30 mm. The lobes of the mesosternum are longer than wide and with the inner margin straight.

The species is grey or yellow-brown; tegmina with black spots (mainly in grey specimens) or well-marked mottles. Mottled specimens show a dorsal longitudinal yellow band on the pronotum extending to the metadona. The hind femora show distinct crossbands (Richman et al., 2003). Nymphs are green or occasionally brown (Mariño-Perez et al., 2011). They have short antennae with few antennules (>30), sometimes wide and flat at the apex, tympanic organs are at the sides of the abdomen, the stridulating apparatus is type posterior femur-tegmina, and the ovipositor is short and robust with the shape of a pincer. They have a large hypognata head sunk into the pronotum and almost immobile, filiform antennae, well-developed compound eyes; chewing mandible, large mesothorax, shaped like a chair and larger than the prothorax. The interior posterior femur has combs for sound production. Forewings (tegmina) are associated to sound production in locusts. Hindwings are membranous folded over the abdomen at rest. The abdomen has 11 segments: 10 movable and the eleventh segment is a reproductive structure. The 11th segment is utilized for the identification of the species. The male copulatory organ is symmetrical and is a distinctive character for species identification (Song, 2002).

Distribution

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The distribution of native S. nitens encompasses southwestern North America (Texas to California, Arizona, Wyoming, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Mexico) (Song, 2002; Salas-Araiza et al., 2003; Lockwood et al., 2013), Central America (Nicaragua and Costa Rica) and northern South America, including Colombia (Rowell, 1998; Arroyo-Oquendo et al., 2004; Cardona, 2012), and in the Caribbean Lesser Antilles (S. nitens caribbeana Dirsh) (Bland et al., 2003). Song (2002) recognizes S. nitens caribbeana as a species.

S. nitens has been adventive in the Hawaiian archipelago since 1964 (Bianchi, 1964; Bianchi et al., 1966), and is now present in all the main islands of the Hawaiian archipelago.

The only representative of the genus Schistocerca in the Eastern Hemisphere is S. gregaria according to Lovejoy et al. (2006).

Oku et al. (2011) described the relative abundance of S. nitens in open plots and farmlands in Calabar Metropolis, South Nigeria, as 14% and 4% respectively. Abbas et al. (2012) reported S. nitens as pest of ornamental and crop plants. As of 2012, these are the only two publications that document the species occurring in the Eastern Hemisphere.

Distribution Table

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The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.

Continent/Country/RegionDistributionLast ReportedOriginFirst ReportedInvasiveReferenceNotes

Asia

PakistanPresentAbbas et al., 2012Faisalabad; pest on ornamental and crop plants

Africa

NigeriaPresent, few occurrencesOku et al., 2011Open plot and farmland

North America

MexicoPresentIntroduced Not invasive Salas-Araiza et al., 2003; Song, 2004; Cano-Santana, 2006; Garcia-Gutierrez et al., 2006Isla Socorro, Mexico, new record, Pacific coast
USAPresent
-ArizonaWidespreadNativeSong, 2004; Lovejoy et al., 2006Collected by Sword, 1992
-CaliforniaPresentNative Invasive Song, 2004Known as S. vaga (Scudder) Type specimen from Central America
-HawaiiWidespreadIntroduced1984 Invasive Bowler et al., 1975, publ. 1977; Bianchi, 1964; Bianchi and Kajiwara, 1966; Starr et al., 2004; Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources et al., 2008; Latchininsky, 2008Nihoa, Mokumanamana, French Frigate Shoals, and Lisiansky Islands
-KansasPresentNative Invasive Song, 2004Known as S. vaga (Scudder) Type specimen from Central America
-NebraskaPresentBrust et al., 2015
-New MexicoWidespreadNative Invasive Dirsh and, 1974; Song, 2004Chihuahuan desert
-OklahomaPresentNative Not invasive Song, 2004Known as S. vaga (Scudder) Type specimen from Central America
-TexasPresentNative Not invasive Song, 2004Known as S. vaga (Scudder) Type specimen from Central America
-WyomingPresent, few occurrencesNativeLockwood et al., 2013Collected at one location in 2007

Central America and Caribbean

CaribbeanPresent
Costa RicaWidespreadIntroducedRowell, 1998Lowland wet forest, montane wet forest, dry forest
GrenadaPresentNativeDirsh and, 1974Lesser Antilles (=Schistocerca nitens caribbeana Dirsh, 1974)
GuatemalaPresentNative Invasive Song, 2004Guatemala
Trinidad and TobagoPresentNativeSong, 2004Trinidad

South America

ColombiaSong, 2004; Cardona, 2012Western Colombia
VenezuelaPresentNative Invasive Quiros and Cranz, 1977Estado de Zulia (=S. impleta)

History of Introduction and Spread

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In August 1964 Schistocerca nitens, reported as S. vaga (Scudder), was found established on Sand Island, Honolulu, Hawaii, and described as a potential threat (Bianchi 1964).

In Nihoa Island, in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, S. nitens was first detected in 1984. By 2000 the species was at population levels large enough to cause damage to native plant species and in 2002 and 2004 there were outbreaks leading to the defoliation of almost all the vegetation (Evenhuis and Eldredge, 2004; DOFAW et al., 2006; Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources et al., 2008). S. nitens has spread to the other islands such as  Mokumanamana, the French Frigate Shoals and Lisiansky Island.

Introductions

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Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
Hawaii California 1977 Latchininsky (2008) Wind dispersal. After the 2002 and 2004 outbreaks, populations have crashed and vegetation has recovered
Hawaii Mexico 1977 Latchininsky (2008) Wind dispersal. After the 2002 and 2004 outbreaks, populations have crashed and vegetation has recovered
Hawaii Hawaii 1977 Latchininsky (2008) Wind dispersal. After the 2002 and 2004 outbreaks, populations have crashed and vegetation has recovered

Risk of Introduction

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S. nitens is considered a solitarious grasshopper (Song, 2004). Nevertheless, climatic factors can induce the species to become gregarious and capable of flying long distances and invade new areas far from their native range. Adults are hardy and long-lived.

Habitat List

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CategorySub-CategoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Terrestrial
Terrestrial – ManagedCultivated / agricultural land Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Managed grasslands (grazing systems) Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Disturbed areas Present, no further details Harmful (pest or invasive)
Terrestrial ‑ Natural / Semi-naturalNatural forests Secondary/tolerated habitat Natural
Natural grasslands Principal habitat Natural
Rocky areas / lava flows Principal habitat Natural
Deserts Principal habitat Natural
Arid regions Principal habitat Natural

Hosts/Species Affected

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Richman et al. (1993) and Dirsh (1974) reported damage to Gossypium herbaceum (cotton), Medicago sativa (alfalfa), citrus and Musa acuminata (banana). Salas-Araiza et al. (2003) reported Casuarina sp., Helianthus sp., and Schinus sp. as plant hosts of S. nitens in Guanajuato, Mexico. In Hawaii, damage to sugarcane has been reported (Bowler et al., 1977). Dirsh (1974) reported cotton Gossypium sp. and alfalfa Medicago sativa as hosts of S. nitens. Latchininsky (2008) is one of the references that reported the plant species affected in the 2002-2004 outbreak in Nihoa Island, Hawaii.

USDA-ARS (1993) published a profile of S. nitens and reported plants in the Family Phorbeaceae, sugarcane and grapes as the most affected by S. nitens in New Mexico, USA. In California, S. nitens is a pest of grapes (Winkler et al., 1974). Cano-Santana et al. (2006) reported Croton as host plant on Isla Socorro, Revillagigedo Islands, Mexico.

Bianchi (1964) reported Ananas comosus (pineapple) and sugarcane Saccharum officinarum leaves as hosts in Hawaii.

Growth Stages

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List of Symptoms/Signs

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SignLife StagesType
Stems / external feeding
Whole plant / external feeding

Biology and Ecology

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Genetics

Lovejoy et al. (2006) presented a mitochondrial DNA phylogeny of Schistocerca species which supported the monophyly of New World species relative to the Old World species S.gregaria. This is in contrast to previous morphological studies and indicates a single trans-Atlantic flight, from Africa to South America, and an extensive speciation and ecological divergence.

Physiology and Phenology

The influence of male S. nitens presence causes an increase in clutch size by means of a pheromone (Okelo, 1979).

Environmental factors such as humidity affect the green/brown polymorphism of S. nitens under laboratory breeding conditions (Rowell and Cannis, 1971). A low relative humidity of 40% coupled with crowding of 5 nymphs per one-liter container produced the phenological change of 95% brown nymphs. Conversely, high humidity approaching 100% and isolation of nymphs minimised the change to only 5%. A combination of these two caused intermediate proportions. Although there was only a small difference between sexes, there was a tendency for males to turn to brown more readily.

The adults of S.nitens are a darker brown than the gregarious S. piceifrons (Cano-Santana et al., 2006). Nymphs are a brown-tan colour with black spots. Instars are best distinguished by the measurements of the head length and width. S.nitens is sympatric with the Central American gregarious locust S.piceifrons (Wlk.). These adult and nymph descriptions by Cano-Santana et al. (2006) on Isla Socorro (Revillagigedo Archipelago, Mexico) are in contrast with the previously reported morphological descriptions elsewhere.

Reproductive Biology

Grasshopper eggs are fertilized when deposited (McNabb, 1928; Slifer and King, 1934) and completion of a pod takes about 1 hour. At 0% stage, freshly deposited eggs are light yellow. Within about 3 hours, they tan to a dark brown. Eggs on the exterior of the pod tan first. The change in colouring is due to a darkening of the outer egg envelope or chorion, which is initially transparent and reveals the yellow, yolk-filled interior of the egg. Yellow, lipid yolk droplets (Mahowald, 1972) are initially uniform in size about 20 ± 5mm in diameter. At 5%, the egg is brown (Bentley et al., 1979). Egg hatches at 100% stage and the vermiform larva emerges with peristaltic contractions.

There is an extensive literature on grasshopper embryogenesis (Packard, 1883; Wheeler, 1893; Slifer, 1932; Roonwal, 1936; Johannsen and Butt, 1941; Anderson, 1972). S. nitens has continuous non-diapausing development (Chapman and Whitham, 1968). All the non-diapausing species show remarkable uniformity in the percentage of time taken to reach a given stage. Asynchrony occured among embryos developing in the same pod. In S. nitens, this asynchrony was often less than ±0-5% of total developmental time. In S. gregaria, Tyrer (1970) reported that for 12 pods examined, 49 % of individuals hatched within 2 hours of the first hatchling, and 82% within 3 hours.

Newly hatched nymphs reach the surface from underground (Bernays, 1971). First ecdysis occurs within 10 minutes when the cuticle of the first instar nymph splits along the mid-dorsum. Similar to S. gregaria, numerous black and unpigmented hairs spring erect, the cervical ampullae deflate, and the mouthparts close medially for the first time. Following ecdysis, the nymph is quiescent for ten to fifteen minutes before taking its initial steps. The first instar nymph is bright green. It has the same brown and black markings as the embryo. Blue pigment persists within the antennae (Roonwal, 1947).

Life Cycle

Laboratory rearing of S. nitens (Thunberg) (Latchininsky, 2008) yielded five nymphal instars. Approximately, the species showed 2 generations per year. The following description of life cycle stages is taken from Latchininsky (2008):

Hatching of eggs to adult emergence ranged from 32 to 40 days at 28 ±0.5°C (12h day) and 22 ±0.5°C (12h night). Males completed the nymphal development 3-5 days earlier than females. Young adults started mating in 8 to 12 days. Females laid eggs 7 to 10 days after mating. Females laid eggs 10-15 days during their life span. Life span in some individuals extended more than 150 days. Each pod contained an average of 66 ±20 eggs (32 minimum to 97 maximum). Pod structure is similar in Schistocerca species. Eggs are only covered by white foam, and lack hard shells. Soil moisture is critical for egg survival. In laboratory rearing, the duration of embryonic development was shortened in warm 30°C moist soil (i.e., 14 days) and took approximately 30 days in drier soil moistened once a week. Dry soil killed eggs. For information on sizes of life cycle stages see Summary of Invasiveness and Description.

Activity Patterns

As a mechanism of thermoregulation, grasshoppers bask under the sun between 1100 hours and 1600 hours (Oku et al., 2011). The flight patterns of adult S.nitens are more precise and faster than the gregarious S. piceifrons (Cano-Santana et al., 2006).

Population Size and Structure

Following the outbreaks of 2002 and 2004 on Nihoa Island, Hawaii, a study of the population of S. nitens was conducted (Latchininsky, 2008). There were an estimated 19,430 ± 10,360 adults and nymphs on the island. Latchininsky (2008) compared his findings with Wegmann et al. (2002) and commented that they probably obtained a higher estimated population of 42,062 ± 36,282, which is probably below the actual number. In 2008 nymphs were 1.5 times as common as adults.

Variation in species composition is believed to be related to lizard predation and agricultural management practices; without human land use, populations would be larger (Oku et al., 2011).

Nutrition

The fifth instar nymphs and adults of grasshoppers are the most voraceous feeding stages affecting grasslands and crops (Glogoza and Weiss, 1997). Shrubs, grasses and agricultural crops are hosts of grasshoppers (Otte D, 1981a, 1981b; Garcia-Gutierrez et al., 2006).

S. nitens is polyphagous (Latchininsky, 2008) and probably prefers broad-leaved plant species. Under laboratory conditions the species fed on Malvaceae, Asteraceae, Fabaceae, Rosaceae, Chenopodiaceae, Salicaceae and Poaceae. On Nihoa Island, Hawaii, it fed on Sidafallax, Sesbaniatomentosa, Solanumnelsonii, Chenopodiumoahuense, Schiedeaverticillata and Pritchardiaremota. In New Mexico, USA, S. nitens is a mixed feeder and will feed on diverse plants such as cotton, alfalfa, citrus and banana (Richman et al., 1993).

Environmental Requirements

Soil moisture is an environmental requirement for egg development (Latchininsky, 2008). Dry and hot weather is only beneficial for nymphs and adults, although as nymph and adult populations increase the vegetation they feed upon decreases during prolonged dry weather. This causes grasshopper populations to collapse, and without new nymphs emerging from desiccated eggs.

In the ‘Region de Los Llanos’ (plains region) of Durango, Mexico, where S. nitens is found, annual mean rainfall is 457 mm and the annual mean temperature 17 °C.

Climate

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ClimateStatusDescriptionRemark
Af - Tropical rainforest climate Tolerated > 60mm precipitation per month
BW - Desert climate Preferred < 430mm annual precipitation
Cs - Warm temperate climate with dry summer Preferred Warm average temp. > 10°C, Cold average temp. > 0°C, dry summers
Ds - Continental climate with dry summer Preferred Continental climate with dry summer (Warm average temp. > 10°C, coldest month < 0°C, dry summers)

Latitude/Altitude Ranges

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Latitude North (°N)Latitude South (°S)Altitude Lower (m)Altitude Upper (m)
30 5

Air Temperature

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Parameter Lower limit Upper limit
Mean annual temperature (ºC) 17 43
Mean maximum temperature of hottest month (ºC) 43
Mean minimum temperature of coldest month (ºC) 13

Natural enemies

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Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Blaesoxipha filipjevi Parasite Adults/Nymphs Hawaii Y
Blaesoxipha lineata Parasite Adults/Nymphs Hawaii Y
Helicobia morionella Parasite Adults/Nymphs Hawaii
Trox procerus Predator Eggs Hawaii Y

Notes on Natural Enemies

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Data on natural enemies in the regulation of S.nitens populations are scarce (Latchininsky, 2008).

Natural enemies, parasitoids and parasites of grasshoppers of Durango, Mexico, were listed as birds, spiders, coleopterans, tachinids and dipterans (Garcia-Gutierrez and Gonzalez, 2011).

In Hawaii the Millerbird Acrocephalus familiaris kingi is a predator of S. nitens. Additionally, the parasitoid Helicobiamorionella, a sarcophagid fly, has been recovered from S.nitens in the field (Davis, 1972).

Means of Movement and Dispersal

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Natural Dispersal (Non-Biotic)

Although other members of the genus Schistocerca are migratory, there is no evidence of S. nitens being migratory in Hawaii (Bowler et al., 1977), although it could be displaced considerable distances by strong winds during trivial flight activity (Johnson, 1969). In the area of greatest infestation on Oahu, for example, northeasterly trade winds frequently reach velocities of 40 km/h (25 mph). In addition, destruction of habitat during harvest could force displaced insects to invade new regions.

Pathogen Transmission

Insects serve as mechanical vectors for infectious Ustilago species, mainly U. violaceae and probably U. succisae (Ingold, 1971), and S. nitens may be a potential vector. The smut fungus Ustilago scitaminea Syd. is a relatively recent accidental introduction to the Hawaiian Islands (Byther et al., 1971). Bowler et al. (1977) studied the dispersal and mechanical vectors of the diseaseand concluded that the possible role of insects as mechanical vectors remained speculative. S. nitens was common in infected fields and contained large concentrations of the chlamydospores.

S.nitens was found associated with sugarcane smut (fungus) whips in Hawaii where the grasshopper was common in infected fields and contained large quantities of spores (Bowler et al., 1977). Sugarcane harvest could force displaced insects to invade new areas and thereby possibly spread sugarcane smut whips.

Impact Summary

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CategoryImpact
Economic/livelihood Negative
Environment (generally) Negative

Economic Impact

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Grasshoppers and locusts destroy an estimated 21 to 23% of range forage in western North American grasslands (Hewitt and Onsager, 1982Rivera-Garcia, 1986; Branson, 2006). They cause a significant impact to the grazing industry from feeding, especially during droughts when forage is scarcer. Population outbreaks result in mass migrations from wild rangeland to adjacent cropland. At present, S.nitens impact has not been estimated in areas where it causes problems. After an outbreak occurs, the vegetation recovers relatively fast.

S.nitens was found associated with sugarcane smut (fungus) whips in Hawaii where the grasshopper was common in infected fields and contained large quantities of spores (Bowler et al., 1977). Sugarcane harvest could force displaced insects to invade new areas and thereby possibly spread sugarcane smut whips.

Environmental Impact

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Impact on Habitats

S. nitens is solitary (not gregarious) and non-migratory (sedentary), but under certain conditions can form swarms or outbreaks and cause damage to crops and native plant species. The S. nitens outbreaks on Nihoa Island, Hawaii, in 2002 and 2004 posed a threat to all the vegetation on the island, especially endangered plant species (Torres-Santana, personal communication; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012). The change from a decade-long drought to wet weather may have triggered the outbreaks. Which limiting factors prevent similar outbreaks on the larger Hawaiian islands are unknown (USDA Forest Service, 2006).

Impact on Biodiversity

Many Hawaiian birds, especially the passerines, are in decline (Conry et al., 2010). Seabird populations also have severely decreased or disappeared due to several factors, including the invasion of S.nitens (Duffy, 2010).

The Nihoa Millerbird Acrocephalus familiaris kingi (Farmer et al., 2011) and Nihoa finch Telespyza ultima have been threatened by the extensive defoliation caused by S.nitens (Latchininsky and Lockwood, 2005; Atkinson, 2012; US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2012).

The island’s 120 native insect species are probably affected by the defoliation caused by S.nitens (Latchininsky, 2008; Wagner and Van Driesche, 2010); however, data on impacts on the native entomofauna are lacking.

Environmental Services

Although grasshopper herbivory can have negative economic consequences, it may also have important ecological consequences of interest to land managers and conservation organizations such as effects on plant community structure and rangeland productivity. Grasshoppers are an ecologically important component of ecosystems in nutrient cycling and in the food web (Branson, 2006).

Threatened Species

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Threatened SpeciesConservation StatusWhere ThreatenedMechanismReferencesNotes
Acrocephalus familiarisCR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered) CR (IUCN red list: Critically endangered)Hawaii
Chenopodium oahuenseNational list(s) National list(s)Hawaii
Eragrostis variabilisNational list(s) National list(s)Hawaii
Pritchardia remota (Remota loula palm)EN (IUCN red list: Endangered) EN (IUCN red list: Endangered); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered speciesHawaii
Sesbania tomentosaNational list(s) National list(s); USA ESA listing as endangered species USA ESA listing as endangered species

Risk and Impact Factors

Top of page Invasiveness
  • Invasive in its native range
  • Proved invasive outside its native range
  • Has a broad native range
  • Abundant in its native range
  • Tolerates, or benefits from, cultivation, browsing pressure, mutilation, fire etc
  • Pioneering in disturbed areas
  • Highly mobile locally
  • Has high reproductive potential
Impact outcomes
  • Host damage
  • Reduced native biodiversity
  • Threat to/ loss of endangered species
  • Threat to/ loss of native species
Likelihood of entry/control
  • Difficult/costly to control

Similarities to Other Species/Conditions

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S. nitens is a species classified in the Subfamily Cyrtacanthacridinae along with other bird grasshoppers. The other species that could be confused with S. nitens are S. americana Drury (1773), S. caribbeanaDirsh (1974), S. columbinaThunberg (1824) and S. virginicaDirsh (1974) (Song, 2004). In the southern USA/Mexico region where they overlap, S. nitens and S. americana can be confused by their spotted tegmina and in instances when S. nitens is brown instead of grey; however, S. americana’s hind femora lack S. nitens’ distinct crossbands.

Prevention and Control

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Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.

Prevention

Ecologically-based preventative management of grasshoppers has received limited attention due to the historical emphasis on grasshopper outbreak suppression and intervention. The Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory (NPARL) is examining the use of habitat management techniques such as burning or livestock grazing on rangeland as a method of manipulating the quality of habitat available for grasshoppers and their primary predators for reducing grasshopper outbreaks. A promising study found that during an outbreak period both grasshopper densities and forage consumption were 5 to 9 times lower in ‘twice-over-rotational’ grazing pastures than in season-long grazing pastures. It was also found that late-summer or autumn fires in the Northern Great Plains lead to reduced grasshopper populations in the year following a fire, suggesting that fire may be useful as a management tool for grasshoppers (USDA ARS NPARL, 2012b).

Cultural Control and Sanitary Measures

When sheep have pastured on land during the winter very few grasshoppers appear in the following spring, apparently due to trampling of the ground (Packard, 1915).

Monitoring and Surveillance

According to Latchininsky (2008), high-resolution satellite imagery can be used to obtain remote sensing data to monitor changes in the vegetation due to grasshopper feeding as an early detection technique.

Biological Control

Biologically-based, environmentally friendly suppressive tools are lacking. Neither of the two USA-registered agents, Nosema locustae and Beauveria bassiana, are very effective or cost-effective on rangeland. The efficacy of these existence agents must be enhanced, or new agents made available, for biologically-based suppression to feasible (Jaronski, 2012).

The fungus Metarhizium anisopliae var. acridum has been developed in Africa and Australia for the control of locusts and is also under development in Brazil, Mexico and China. This fungus, which is specific to grasshoppers and locusts, could provide an effective and economic tool to control locust outbreaks in the USA. It is far more infectious in Orthoptera than the currently registered Beauveria. The NPARL (Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory) is working to bring the existing isolates into the USA for large-scale field trials in cooperation with USDA APHIS and the University of South Utah (Diaz-Soltero, 2009; Foster et. al, 2009).

Biological control of insect pests by insect parasitoids and predators has also been proposed by Greathead and Greathead (1992).

Chemical Control

Chemical control is applied under certain conditions but this practice does not provide long-term control, targets potentially important species, and could exacerbate future grasshopper outbreaks (Jaronski, 2012). Potential severe effects on non-target species rendered this technique unviable for use on Nihoa Island, Hawaii (Gilmartin, 2005). The use of insecticidal baits has been proposed to target grasshopper populations (Latchininsky and VanDyke, 2006).

Integrated Pest Management

Unlike past control efforts, which have relied on reactive, large-scale, pesticide spraying programs which are unfeasible for economic and environmental reasons, NPARL (Northern Plains Agricultural Research Laboratory) researchers are studying ways to stem outbreaks before they occur. Current research focuses on the development of sustainable grasshopper management systems that use management practices and ecological processes in place of an exclusive reliance on pesticides. Habitat management, biological control and ecological studies are all part of the NPARL grasshopper research effort, which has shown that twice-over rotational grazing can reduce grasshopper populations by 70% compared to season long grazing. Researchers are also testing promising pathogens for their potential as biocontrol agents for grasshoppers, as well as examining the insect’s dietary preferences during different life stages, which could ultimately lead to new cultural methods for curbing population growth (USDA-ARS NPARL, 2012a).

Gaps in Knowledge/Research Needs

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The status of S. nitens as an invasive destructive species should be given more attention in order to determine its ecological role and its potential benefits as a biotic regulating factor in its wide geographic range. This species should be monitored long-term to better understand the environmental factors that trigger its outbreaks, and thereby allow managers to put preventative measures into effect ahead of time. Chemical control measures should be avoided and ecologically based methods should be used instead.

Areas that need further research are: 1) climatologic data to correlate grasshopper abundance with moisture and temperature (which will help to estimate survival rate to drought), 2) biotic (e.g. diet) and abiotic (e.g. topographic microclimatic) factors affecting its life cycle, 3) dispersal pathways, 4) the potential role of natural enemies for its different life stages, 5) factors limiting outbreaks on large versus small islands in Hawaii, 6) treatment options and potential effects on target organisms, 7) the effectiveness of IPM Reduced Agent Area Treatments (RAATs) in different geoclimatic regions (Latchininsky and Lockwood, 2004), 8) the development of a rapid response protocol including biological, microbial and cultural controls, and 9) the creation of historic grasshopper outbreak frequency maps.

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Links to Websites

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WebsiteURLComment
HAWAII DLNR, Division of Fish & Wildlifewww.dofaw.net
Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monumenthttp://www.papahanaumokuakea.gov/management/mp/vol1_mmp08.pdf
USFWS Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Officehttp://www.fws.gov/pacific/ecoservices/endangered/recovery/5year.html

Organizations

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France: CIRAD, http://www.cirad.fr/ur/acridologie_en/accueil

Italy: FAO Locusta Watch, http://www.fao.org/ag/locusts/en/info/info/index.html

USA: Orthoptera Species File Online (OSF online), http://orthoptera.speciesfile.org/HomePage.aspx

USA: Schistocerca Information Site, www.schistocerca.org

USA: The Orthopterists’ Society, http://140.247.119.225/OrthSoc/recordlist.php?-skip=35&-max=5

Contributors

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29/08/12 Original text by:

Alberto Garcia-Moll, Consultant, Puerto Rico

Distribution Maps

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