How to Tell the Difference Between a Grasshopper and a Cricket

Discover the Orthoptera

Tropical grasshopper
  Charles Wollertz/Getty Images

Grasshoppers, crickets, katydids, and locusts all belong to the order Orthoptera. Members of this group share a common ancestor. While all of these insects look similar to the untrained eye, each has unique characteristics.

Meet the Orthopterans

Based on physical and behavioral characteristics, the Orthopterans can be split into four orders: 

  • Dictyoptera (including cockroaches and mantids)
  • Grylloblattids (walking sticks)
  • Ensifera (katydids and crickets)
  • Caelifera (grasshoppers and locusts)

There are about 24,000 species of Orthoptera around the world. Most, including both grasshoppers and crickets, are plant eaters. Orthoptera range in size from about a quarter of an inch long to nearly a foot.Some, such as locusts, are pests that can literally destroy crops in minutes. In fact, locust infestations were included in the ten plagues described in the Biblical Book of Exodus. Others, such as crickets, are harmless and are considered to be signs of good luck.

 There are about 1300 species of Orthoptera in the United States. There are more in the south and southwest, but there are 103 species in New England alone.

About Crickets

Crickets are most closely related to the very similar katydids. They lay their eggs in soil or leaves utilize their ovipositors to insert eggs into soil or plant material. There are crickets in every part of the world. All 2400 species of crickets are leaping insects about .12 - 2 inches long. They have four wings; the two front wings are leathery and stiff, while the two back wings are membranous and are used for flight.

Crickets are either green or white. They may live on the ground, in trees, or in bushes, where they feed largely on aphids and ants. The most distinctive aspect of crickets is their song. Male crickets rub a scraper on one front wing against a set of teeth on the other wing. They can vary the pitch of their chirps by speeding up or slowing down the movement of their scraper. Some cricket songs are intended to attract mates, while others are intended to warn away other males. Both male and female crickets have sensitive hearing.

The warmer the weather, the faster crickets chirp. In fact, the snowy tree cricket is so sensitive to sound that it is often called the "thermometer cricket." You can figure out the exact temperature Fahrenheit by counting the number of chirps in 15 seconds and then adding 40 to that figure.

About Grasshoppers

Grasshoppers are very similar in appearance to crickets, but they're not identical. They may be green or brown, with yellow or red markings. Most grasshoppers lay eggs on the ground. Like crickets, grasshoppers can make a sound with their forewings, but the sound made by grasshoppers is more like a buzz than a trill or song. Unlike crickets, grasshoppers are awake and active during the day.

The Difference Between Crickets and Grasshoppers

The following traits separate most grasshoppers and locusts from their close cousins, the crickets and katydids. As with any rule, there may be exceptions.

Characteristic Grasshoppers Crickets
Antennae short long
Auditory Organs on the abdomen on the forelegs
Stridulation rubbing the hind leg against the forewing rubbing forewings together
Ovipositors short long, extended
Activity diurnal nocturnal
Feeding Habits herbivorous predatory, omnivorous, or herbivorous