We found a grasshopper this week.

Not full grown like this one from last summer.

It was a newly-hatched grasshopper, small enough to fit in the center of a desert marigold flower.

How do you tell that this isn’t a really small adult grasshopper?

The young stages of insects with incomplete metamorphosis, like grasshoppers and praying mantids, look like miniature adults without wings. The young are called “nymphs.” They start out small, and grow each time they shed their outer covering, called the exoskeleton.

(Drawing by Snodgrass retrieved from Wikimedia.)

See the long wings that cover the back of the adult stage? Some of the older nymphs have short wing buds where the wings are going to be. The antennae are longer in proportion to the body in adults, as well.

Where do grasshoppers start out their life cycle?

(Drawing by Snodgrass retrieved from Wikimedia)

The adult female grasshopper lays a cluster of eggs in the soil. When the eggs hatch, the tiny nymphs crawl to the surface and begin feeding on plants. Thus, the cycle starts anew.

So, is this brilliant green grasshopper an adult or a nymph?

Edit:  Note this life cycle is a generalized summary of the typical insect. With over 1,000,000 described species of insects, there are of course a number with shortened, reduced or even no wings as adults.