A Valentine’s Day Suprise, A Pink Grasshopper!

Feb2010 100
Val!
Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1

Tuesday morning, I came into work, turned on my computer, started to eat my morning snack, and checked my messages. I just about choked and went through the roof when I heard a message from a woman named Kelly McLaughlin, who said that her son Ronnie had found a pink grasshopper in their backyard! I was so excited!! She was so sweet to drive here from Santa Fe, Texas to donate this amazing little creature to the Butterfly Center.

Now I’m sure you’re wondering, what’s so special about a pink grasshopper? Well, have YOU ever seen one? A pink grasshopper should not really exist! It has an unusual genetic mutation known as erythrism. This is when an animal has either too much of one pigment, or not enough of another, causing it to be red or some variation of red such as pink or purple. It can be found in a wide variety of animals, including several types of insects.  There are several theories about why this happens but no one is completely sure. Erythrism has been observed in certain species of katydids, in fact, the Audubon Insectarium in New Orleans has been able to breed pink katydids and put them on display. I have always been so jealous! When I heard this phone message, I actually expected to see a pink katydid and I was shocked that it was actually a grasshopper instead! If everything goes well, I may be able to breed pink grasshoppers for display, how cool would that be?

What did Katy do?
A pink katydid
Creative Commons License photo credit: frankcheez

Since Ronnie found this grasshopper on Valentine’s Day, her name is Val. We have identified Val as a Northern Green Striped Grasshopper (Chortophaga viridifasciata). This species is very common in Texas. They are small, only reaching a little over an inch as adults. They mostly feed on grasses and prefer wet areas. They usually have two forms, green or brown, but occasionally a pink mutant pops up! I’m not sure how rare they really are, but I don’t think anyone in this area has seen one. This is very exciting! Val has a little more growing to do and hopefully in a few weeks she will be ready for display. She will certainly receive some TLC here so we can make sure she makes it to adulthood. So, remember to keep your eyes open for pink bugs. If you find any, we’d love to hear about them! Happy Bug Watching!