It’s been a long time, too long in fact, since my last species of the week blog. I don’t do new years resolutions, but if I did, it would be to write species of the week nearly every week (the nature of university life makes every week unrealistic!). So here we go with the first species of the week of 2017: the Slender Groundhopper (Tetrix subulata). Here is the lovely little creature:
Groundhoppers are in the order Orthoptera, the same order as Grasshoppers, Crickets and Bush-crickets. They are however, in a family of their own: Tetrigidae. At first glance, groundhoppers look very similar to grasshoppers, but there is a simple difference. In grasshoppers, the pronotum is short, and so sits neatly between the head and thorax. This means that the wings of grasshoppers are fully visible from above. In groundhoppers, the pronotum extends backwards over the abdomen, completely concealing the wings. Here are the two side by side for comparison, with the label pointing to the end of the pronotum on the grasshopper.
Slender Groundhoppers, like many insects, are found in the spring, summer and autumn. Immature adults may overwinter, and mature into adults in early spring. From May to July, nymphs can be found, and from late July onwards, adults can be found again. Both adults and nymphs are herbivorous, feeding on algae and mosses.
Slender Groundhoppers are typically found in damp but unshaded and warm locations, typically with sparse vegetation. Streambeds which run dry in the summer are a classic location for finding this species. A similar species, the Common Groundhopper (Tetrix undulata) is often found alongside the Slender Grounhopper. T.undulata can be told apart from T.subulata by the length of the pronotum, which only just reaches the tip of the abdomen in T.undulata, but extends well beyond in T.subulata (shown in the top picture). T.subulata is marginally the larger of the two species, at 11-14mm in length. There is a much rarer species, Cepero’s Groundhopper (Tetrix ceperoi), which is extremely similar to the Slender Groundhopper. T.ceperoi is told apart by having its eyes less widely spaced apart than in T.subulata. It also occurs almost exclusively on the South coast of England.
Despite preferring slightly damp habitats, the Slender Groundhopper is thermophilic, so is most frequently found in Southern and Eastern England. It also occurs in South Wales, and there are isolated records from as far North as central Scotland. Its distribution can be seen here:
This is definitely a species to look forward to finding in the warmer months. I’m hoping to find all three British Groundhopper species this year on the Lizard peninsula!