The New Zealand Grasshopper
The first weekly spotlight newsletter for Dwindle River Garden
Thank you for your subscription! I am SO excited to be sharing with you more of the magical world we live in, and hopefully how we can all do a little bit more to help it along.
You could fill shelves upon shelves of books with things I didn’t know about gardening - and probably whole libraries with things I still don’t know about gardening. But what astounds me more is how little I know about our native and endemic wildlife.
You may be wondering, then, why I am starting a newsletter that revolves around that very topic. Am I qualified to do so? No. I’m not very experienced, either. However, I make up for them both with my boundless enthusiasm, and the thrill I feel every time I discover something new.
Welcome to the first Weekly Spotlight, in which we put one animal, plant, fungus, or element of nature under the spotlight. It’ll usually be inspired by something I’ve seen or learned that week, or perhaps something that’s been in the news lately. Whether you’re a paid or free subscriber, you’ll get this every Friday afternoon, and can read through the archives whenever you wish.
When I think of grasshoppers, the first thing that comes to mind is Aesop’s Fables. I have a gorgeously illustrated book of his from fables when I was little, and read it cover to cover many times.
One story was called The Grasshopper and the Ants. It describes how the ants worked through summer to store up food for the winter, while the grasshopper has a leisurely season making music and dancing. When winter comes and the grasshopper has no food, he begs the ants to share with him. They refuse, basically saying “we told you so” and let the grasshopper know he can dance the winter away - just as he did through the abundant summer while they worked.
This pretty much sums up my whole previous knowledge of grasshoppers. I think that’s one reason I find wildlife so fascinating. Quite often, seeing them in our garden is the first time I’ve ever seen them in real life; before this they were just as much of a fairytale as Cinderella.
In fact, when I first saw a grasshopper - just a few weeks ago - I had to turn to iNaturalist to figure out what on earth it was!
As usual, iNaturalist delivered. I found out it is the New Zealand grasshopper, Phaulacridium marginale, an endemic species. Now, I know you know what that means - but let’s take a minute to let it sink in. This little grasshopper is found nowhere else but on the small islands in the great Pacific Ocean that make up Aotearoa/New Zealand; there is nowhere else on the whole entire planet where you’ll find it. Pretty cool, eh?
We actually have FOUR endemic grasshopper species here in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Just as butterflies do, grasshoppers will find spots where they can bask in the sun. Like my gumboots, apparently!
Because they’re cold-blooded, they need to do a bit of sunbathing to regulate their body temperature (tip: if you’re keen on photographing insects, first thing in the morning can be easier as they are still warming up from the cool overnight temperatures; evening can be a good time, too, as they catch the last rays of the sun before twilight).
Also called the lowland short-horned grasshopper, it’s not found in alpine areas (the ‘lowland’ bit kinda gives that away, eh). According to iNaturalist, it can be quite common around lowland Te Whanganui-a-Tara/Wellington and Ōtautahi/Christchurch so if that’s where you call home then keep an eye out in grassy patches, or even overgrown roadside verges, for a hoppy wee thing.
Having said that, we live about five hours south of Ōtautahi and have them here. In theory, they’re ‘common’ throughout the country - there are other species that live in the hills - so keep an eye out and you might just spot one.