- Written by Gus Jones
- Category: Insects
- Published: 18 March 2013
See also BSCG’s leaflet on Groundhoppers of Badenoch & Strathspey written by Tim Ransom.
Grasshoppers and Crickets by Ted Benton was published in 2012 in the Collins New Naturalist Series (paperback £30).
This book on grasshoppers and their allies, that are in the insect order of Orthoptera, is packed with information. It has a feast of illustrations and includes a CD and written commentary that provides a fascinating insight into the behaviour of many British species.
A chapter on ecology and conservation of the British species includes what I found to be an absorbing account of pioneering studies of the ecology of this group. It also reviews more recent studies providing insight into the very low abundance and species richness in modern intensively farmed landscapes where biodiversity has been lost and opportunities need to be taken to restore it.
As well as numerous photos of grasshoppers, crickets and groundhoppers the pictures extend to representations of grasshoppers like the Gresham grasshopper at the Royal Exchange in London. There are photos of a range of other invertebrates. For example a stick insect, cockroaches, a mantid, a wasp spider, a solitary wasp and the striking caterpillar of the sycamore moth find a place too. There are even portraits of birds - an Asian paradise flycatcher and a satin bowerbird. These, with photos of the naturalists Alfred Russel Wallace and Charles Darwin, are included in a chapter on mating systems and sexual selection.
The species accounts follow a similar format to that found in Bumblebees also in the New Naturalist series and by Ted Benton, published in 2006. Both these well illustrated volumes have sections that can be dipped into for reference. There is an easily located identification key (pages 216 -238) that acknowledges that groundhoppers can be difficult to distinguish with certainty and confident identification should be based on several characters. This is illustrated with line drawings that are also numerous in a chapter on structure and function, describing such features as senses and acoustic apparatus.
Rare long-winged form of the common groundhopper
The distribution maps of British species are a useful feature. The map for the slender groundhopper omits the first Strathspey record (recorded by BSCG from a site threatened with development at Boat of Garten) although this was reported in British Wildlife before the book’s publication date.
The account of the common groundhopper, citing a 1988 general work, mentions strong populations in ancient pine and birch woods. Benton comments that this species has quite exacting habitat requirements and is vulnerable to such things as habitat loss from ‘development’. The fully- winged (or ‘macropterous’) form of the common groundhopper has been recorded by BSCG since 2009 on threatened sites in Strathspey. No illustration of this long-winged form is provided. Reviewing the status of this uncommon form, Benton mentions that it was listed from two Scottish sites by Kevan (1952) and referred to by Haes and Harding in the 1997 Atlas of Grasshoppers, Crickets and Allied insects of Britain and Ireland.
The book ends with many useful references covering an impressive range of topics, including for example the place of grasshoppers and crickets in Amerindian culture. I found Grasshoppers and Crickets an engaging and authoritative account of a fascinating group of insects that deserve increased attention in Scotland.