Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Nature Watch: "California Rose-winged grasshopper"


Last updated 6/15/2023 at 10:31am

It was a record year in Borrego Springs for the number of migrating Swainson's hawks arriving here, and part of that success was a healthy crop of grasshoppers.

And it's even more interesting than that.

It began with a strong monsoon season last fall that saw some healthy storms dump lots of water on a thirsty desert.

That was followed by early winter rains and a steady flow of storms that continued right into March.

Water is life in the desert, and all that rain produced abundant growth and that means plenty of food for grasshoppers, so their numbers multiplied.

Swainson's hawks are big fans of the grasshoppers, since they provide an excellent source of food that is rich in protein.

Migrating Swainson's hawks need this nutritional boost during their long migrations north from South America.

So, these small little hoppers certainly deserve praise for their supporting role that significantly contributed to an epic migration of Swainson's hawks.

Just who are these little grasshoppers with the green face and large, bulging eyes?

They are California rose-winged grasshoppers.

When the desert has received lots of rainfall, this grasshopper will emerge from eggs laid in the ground and will be common in large numbers throughout the summer. They will be feeding on the grasses that have grown during the wet season.

These are not dangerous insects, and they do not pose any threat to the environment, in fact they are a welcome source of food for migrating and resident birds.

Their name comes from the fact that their wings when in flight display a pine to red color. They are also known to produce brief buzzing sounds when in flight.

Keep an eye out for this interesting desert creature as you are moving about in the desert.

Their range is broad, extending generally from southwestern Oregon into northern Baja, Mexico.

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