The Secret Lives Of Grasshoppers And Crickets

While grasshoppers and crickets are often thought of as harmful to plants, scientists have demonstrated that these insects can also play important roles in pollination.

AsianScientist (Sep. 6, 2018) – In a study published in the Journal of Orthoptera Research, a research group in Singapore reported that grasshoppers and crickets play an important role as pollinators in nature.

Pollination is crucial for plant reproduction and supplying food crops for human consumption. Bees and butterflies are well known pollinators, but insects such as grasshoppers and crickets (orthopterans) are often thought of as pests that feed on and damage plants.

However, in a study led by Associate Professor Hugh Tan at the National University of Singapore, researchers showed that not all orthopterans are bad for agriculture. To better understand the roles that orthopterans play in pollination ecology, the research team conducted field surveys across different vegetation and localities in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam and Indonesia between 2015 and 2018. The study involved both day and night surveys during which flower-visiting orthopterans were searched and recorded using photographs and videos.

The team recorded 140 incidences of orthopterans visiting flowers across the sites surveyed, among which 41 orthopteran species visited the flowers of 35 plant species. Out of the 41 species, 19 species were katydids, 13 were grasshoppers and nine were crickets.

The researchers also discovered two main categories of flower-visiting orthopterans. The first category consists of katydids that are floriphilic, which means they clearly prefer flowers over other plant parts as their diet. On the other hand, the second category comprises opportunistic folivores such as cone-headed katydids (Conocephalus species) and Bukit Timah’s cricket (Tremellia timah), which typically consume leaves, but consume flower matter when it is available.

The scientists also conducted experiments in which the flowers were exposed to the katydids and allowed to develop into seeds. They found that the chance of these flowers eventually producing seeds was about three times higher.

“Without such studies, it is not possible to assess the risks presented by these potential pest species, as well as to further examine the beneficial roles of the flower-visiting orthopterans,” explained Tan. “Our findings suggest that current knowledge of orthopterans as flower-visitors and their role in pollination ecology is still in its infancy.”

The researchers hope to conduct more studies to better understand how orthopterans can function both as pollinators and harmful plant-eaters, and how these unconventional pollinators co-evolve with plants.

The article can be found at: Tan & Tan (2018) A Gentle Floriphilic Katydid Phaneroptera brevis Can Help With the Pollination of Bidens pilosa.


Source: National University of Singapore; Photo: Tan Ming Kai.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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