FAMILIES OF ORTHOPTERA OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
R. A. Cannings and G. G. E. Scudder
Copyright © 2005 - All rights reserved
Key to Families of Orthoptera
1. Antennae with well over 30 segments (Suborder Ensifera)................................ 2
- Antennae with less than 30 segments (Suborder Caelifera)................................ 10
2. All tarsi 3-segmented, even if basal segment appears to be subdivided................3
- At least middle tarsi, and usually all tarsi, 4-segmented........................................ 5
3. Hind femora very broad and oval; hind coxae nearly contiguous ventrally; eyes very small; body dorso-ventrally flattened; small, rounded, wingless insects living in ant nests ................................................................
- Hind femora slender; hind coxae widely separated ventrally; eyes large; body flattened or cylindrical................................................................................ 4
4. Head with ocelli present; black or brown insects; body cylindrica............Gryllidae
- Head without ocelli; pale, usually green insects; body flattened............ Oecanthidae
5. Forewings present, at least in males, even if greatly reduced; forewings tough, tegminized and usually with stridulatory structures in males; wings with fewer than 8 principal longitudinal veins; fore and middle tibiae without ventral articulated spines......................................................................................... 6
- Wings absent; fore and middle tibiae often with ventrally articulated spines
6. Hind tibiae with less than 10 dorsal spines in each row; females with ovipositor very short........................................................................
- Hind tibiae with numerous dorsal spines in each row; females with well developed ovipositor.................................................................................................. 7
7. First tarsal segment with dorsal surface smoothly rounded; prosternal spine absent; females with ovipositor relatively short, sickle-shaped and typically blunt and apically denticulate.................................................
- First tarsal segment with dorsal surface laterally grooved; prosternal spine usually present; females with ovipositor dagger-like or sword-like........................... 8
8. Head blunt; fore tibiae with one or more spines on dorsal surface
- Head conical or subconical; fore tibiae without spines on dorsal surface ..............................................................................................Conocephalidae
9. Antennae contiguous or nearly contiguous at base; tarsi compressed laterally, quite or virtually without pulvilli ...................................................Rhaphidophoridae
- Antennae separated at base by distance equal to or greater than length of first antennal segment; tarsi depressed, and with distinct pulvilli ............................................................................................Stenopelmatidae
10. Pronotum extended backwards over abdomen.................................. Tetrigidae
- Pronotum not extended backwards over abdomen................................. Acrididae
Description of Families
Suborder Ensifera (katydids and crickets)
Family Conocephalidae (meadow katydids, cone-head bush-crickets)
Elongate, usually green and brown insects; they have a rather conical head (giving the family its scientific name) with a rounded, concave-sided tubercle at the top; the antennae are longer than the body and arise between the eyes. The prosternum normally bears a pair of spines. The front tibia lacks terminal spines. The wings are fully developed or reduced, but rarely absent; tegmina resemble grass blades or stems. The ovipositor is long, often longer than the rest of the body; it is straight or slightly curved upwards.
Members of the Conocephalidae normally live in damp areas rich with grasses, rushes, sedges and weeds and lay eggs in such vegetation. They frequently stridulate in daylight as well as at night, and many species are particularly active in the evening. Typically, the sound produced is a long whine or a high-pitched buzz. There are about 1000 species in the family worldwide. It is diverse in eastern Canada, but only one species ranges into B.C. This species is a meadow katydid (tribe Conocephalini); the cone-head bush-crickets or cone-headed katydids (tribe Copiphorini) do not occur in B.C., although a couple of species, Neoconocephalus triops (Linnaeus) and Pseudorhynchus concisus (F. Walker) are recorded, but not established.
Conocephalus fasciatus (De Geer), the Slender Meadow Katydid, is the most widespread North American species, common across southern Canada and ranging south to Mexico. In B.C., it lives from the south coast to the East Kootenays, north to the Cariboo. A slender, fully winged species (the tegmina are at least as long as the abdomen) about 15 cm long, it is mostly brown above, green on the sides and below. The ovipositor is long and straight; the male cercus has a heavy medial tooth near the base. It lives in a wide range of habitats, from dry weedy fields to wet marsh edges, probably most abundant in damper areas. The song is mostly given by day or in the early evening. It is soft and quiet: numerous faint ticks interjected between long trills lasting 10 to 30 seconds.
Family Gryllidae (ground, field and house crickets)
The Gryllidae is the main family of true crickets and contains our most familiar species. Gryllids are usually yellow, brown or black and range in size from 4 to 25 mm. The native North American species live in fields, meadows and waste ground, on roadsides and lawns. Their significant characteristics include: ocelli present; antennae inserted above the middle of the face; hind tibiae strongly spined and without denticles between the spines; second segment of tarsi compressed; wings usually developed, but often reduced, the male’s tegmina broad and modified for stridulation; cerci usually long; ovipositor needle-like, slightly enlarged at the tip. There are about 800 named species worldwide. Two genera, each with two species, are native to B.C. One species is introduced.
The ground crickets (subfamily Nemobiinae) are small for the family, less than 15 mm long, mainly distinguished by the long, movable spines on the tibiae. The B.C. species, Allonemobius fasciatus (De Geer) and A. allardi (Alexander & Thomas) range across southern Canada and the USA. These small dark crickets are 6.5 to 12 mm long. The wings may be short (the common form), covering half to two thirds of the abdomen; some have wings longer than the abdomen. Males have specialized glandular spines on the hind tibiae that females chew on during mating. Both species can occur together, although in B.C. A. fasciatus is the more widespread, occurring on the south coast as well as in the Interior. Both like damp habitats, although A. allardi also lives in dry grasslands. The song of A. fasciatus consists of short buzzing chirps; that of S. allardi is a soft trill.
The field crickets and house cricket (subfamily Gryllinae) are larger than the ground crickets. They have three ocelli arranged in a triangle and the hind tibiae have strong, fixed spines. The variation in field cricket (Gryllus) species is complex and the species limits need clarification. However, the general view at present is that there are two species in Canada and southern B.C., Gryllus pennsylvanicus Burmeister and G. veletis (Alexander & Bigelow). They are dark brown to black and 15 to 25 mm long. The wings are fully developed or reduced; usually the female’s tegmina cover about half the abdomen and the male’s almost reach the tip of the abdomen. The two species are extremely similar in appearance and song, which is a slow chirp chirp chirp, given in the daytime or on warm evenings. G. pennsylvanicus is the more common and gregarious species; it overwinters as an egg and matures in the late summer. G. veletis is a more solitary, burrowing species that overwinters as a nymph and matures and sings in the spring. The House Cricket, Acheta domesticus (Linnaeus) is introduced from Europe and at our latitudes, lives mainly in buildings. It is recorded from the B.C. Lower Mainland. The body is light yellow-brown and the head has four red-brown crossbands.
Family Myrmecophilidae (ant crickets)
The family name comes from the Greek: myrmecos means ant and philos means love; these tiny crickets live in ant colonies or, sometimes, with termites. Apparently, they cannot live long on their own.
Ant crickets are the smallest orthopterans, usually between 1.5 and 4.0 mm long. The round head bears reduced eyes and the antennae are no longer than the body, which is broad, oval and wingless. The hind femora are short, oval and greatly enlarged; the ends of the hind tibiae bear strong, movable spines. There are no stridulatory or hearing organs. The cerci are large, bristly and ringed, but not segmented and the ovipositor is short, with knife-like valves.
Some cricket species may rely on many species of ant hosts, but others are restricted to a single species. The crickets feed on the secretions of the ants, but apparently offer nothing in return. Females lay surprisingly large eggs; some are a third the size of the female body. Some species are parthenogenetic.
There are five genera and about 45 species living mostly in temperate and subtropical zones. The only Canadian species is restricted to coastal B.C.
Myrmecophilus oregonensis Bruner, the West Coast Ant Cricket, ranges from south coastal B.C. to California. It lives in the nests of formicine and myrmecine ants in rotten logs and stumps and under rocks in damp locations. Fourteen species of ant hosts are reported; Camponotus, Formica, Pogonomyrmex and Tapinoma are a few of the host genera.
Family Oecanthidae (tree crickets)
The family is separated from other true crickets by the combination of the following characteristics: the delicate body is small (10-15 mm long ) and usually green-white; the head is long, held horizontally; ocelli are absent; the pronotum is longer than wide; the male metanotum has a large, glandular sex-attractant pit from which the female eats secretions while mating. Both sexes have well developed wings; the tegmina are semi-transparent. Those of males are broad and flat, held horizontally over the back and highly modified for stridulation; females have narrow tegmina that fold over the sides of the body.
Tree crickets are omnivorous and can damage plants, but are usually considered beneficial because they feed extensively on small insects such as aphids. Females lay eggs in woody or pithy stems, sometimes damaging fruit trees, vines and berry canes. In Oecanthus, the presence, size and shape of dark marks on the first two antennal segments are important clues in species identification, as is the number of teeth on the stridulatory file of the tegmen.
Tree crickets are excellent singers. Most produce a long, loud trill, although others give a slower series of chirps; in some species, males synchronize their songs with other males. Songs are species specific and help prevent interbreeding, so are useful in identification. In general, species that typically live in trees and tall shrubs sing at night, those mostly lower in shrubs, weeds and herbs sing during the day as well as after dark. Because the pitch and speed of the song increase as temperature rises; the songs of Oecanthus, at least that of O. fultoni T.J. Walker (Snowy Tree Cricket), can be used to estimate temperature. Count the number of chirps in 13 seconds and add 40; this gives the approximate temperature in ºF.
The tree crickets form a distinctive, cosmopolitan family of true crickets, most diverse in Africa and South America. There are eight species in Canada, all in the genus Oecanthus; six of these live in B.C., but only in the southern and central Interior.
Two species in B.C., O. fultoni T.J. Walker and O. rileyi Baker sing with regular chirps (treet treet treet). The chirp rate of the latter is slower, about 90 chirps per minute at 70ºF (21ºC) compared to about 150 chirps per minute in western populations of O. fultoni. The other B.C. species -- O. nigricornis F. Walker, O. argentinus Saussure, O. californicus Saussure and O. quadripunctatus Beutenmuller -- sing in a faster continuos trill. Most B.C. species live in fields and cleared areas with weeds, coarse forbs and low bushes, although O. fultoni is often associated with trees. O. nigricornis likes wet areas.
Family Phaneropteridae (bush katydids, leaf katydids)
These are the bush, leaf, and round-headed katydids. The family has the following characteristics: head rounded, face not flat or slanted; antennae longer than the body, and inserted between the eyes, which are usually small and round; prosternum without spines; wings typically leaf-like, but often reduced, the tegmen flat, long and narrow or an elongate oval and the hindwing usually longer than forewing; stridulatory organs at the base of the tegmina well developed; top of first tarsal segment smoothly rounded; ovipositor short, sickle-shaped and flat.
Phaneropterids typically live in weeds, bushes and trees, where they are well camouflaged by their green colour and leaf-like wings. They are plant feeders, place there eggs in foliage and are mainly nocturnal. The immatures of some species mimic ants, ground beetles and even spiders. Some groups, predominantly in Europe, are mainly active in daylight and live on the ground; they lay eggs in the soil.
There are about 2000 species worldwide, but only two species in the genus Scudderia live in B.C.; two other species in different genera are recorded, but not established. Scudderia furcata Brunner von Wattenwyl, the Fork-tailed Bush Katydid, is the more common and widespread of the two B.C. species; it ranges from the southern B.C. mainland east to Nova Scotia and south to Mexico. It is dark green sometimes with brown or red tinges; including its wings, it is 30 to 50 mm long. The tegmina are narrow, the length 4.5 times longer than the width and not significantly broader in middle. The upper appendage at the end of the abdomen in males is downcurved and deeply forked. S. furcata lives in lives in marshes and other wet areas as well as thickets at the edges of woods. Males sing day and night from trees and bushes, often high up. The song is a slow che-che-che or zick. Females lay eggs in late summer or fall and they hatch in spring. A similar species, S. pistillata Brunner von Wattenwyl, the Broad-winged Bush Katydid, is a more eastern species, lives in the extreme southeastern part of the province (southern Rocky Mountain Trench). Microcentrum rhombifolium (Saussure) from southern Ontario and the USA has shown up in the Vancouver area, but is not established. Phaneroptera gracilis Burmeister from Africa and southern Asia is also an adventive species in British Columbia.
Family Prophalangopsidae (hump-winged crickets)
The hump-winged crickets of the superfamily Hagloidea are an ancient group of great evolutionary interest, dating to the Triassic Period, and most species are known only as fossils. The surviving four species, sometimes referred to as “living fossils”, are placed in the family Prophalangopsidae; one lives in India, the other three, in the genus Cyphoderris, come from western North America. Two of them occur in southern B.C. Their wings are reduced, but a simple stridulatory vein on each stubby tegmen produces loud songs; there is a tympanum on the front tibia. The body is dark brown, robust, hump-backed, at least in males; the legs are short and only barely modified for jumping. Cyphoderris has four tarsal segments; the Indian species is unusual because it has only three.
Cyphoderris monstrosa Uhler ranges from the Fraser Valley north to the Prince George area, eastward to the Rocky Mountains of Alberta and south to northern California. In B.C. it is most common in the dry forests of the Interior. It lives from valley bottoms to timberline. About 25 mm long, C. monstrosa is dark brown with black and pale yellow to pink markings. The pronotum covers the back of the broad head. The tegmina are reduced to small oval lobes in females; in males they are about half the length of the abdomen. Males call from dusk to past midnight, usually from tree trunks or branches. The song is a loud, high-pitched trill up to 2 seconds long. Immatures overwinter and emerge in spring or early summer. There are records of adults and immatures feeding on the male cones of Lodgepole Pine. The insects can be a nuisance by gnawing on buds and ripening fruit in orchards. C. buckelli Hebard is similar to C. monstrosa, but is slightly smaller; there are differences in the genitalia. C. buckelli is less widespread, ranging from the B.C. Cariboo region south to Montana, Idaho and northern Oregon. It mainly lives in dry Ponderosa Pine and Douglas-fir woods and feeds in spring on the flowers of plants such as Arrow-leaved Balsamroot and Saskatoon. Males do not climb high in trees; they stridulate from the ground or on low shrubs and tree trunks.
Family Rhaphidiophoridae (camel crickets, cave crickets)
The cave and camel crickets are humpbacked, wingless, usually brown orthopterans. The bases of their long antennae almost touch; they have no sound producing or receiving structures; the very long (or sometimes very stout) legs usually have broad femora, elongate and spiny tibiae and laterally compressed tarsi.
Most species live in dark, often damp places such as in wet forests under logs and stones, in caves and cellars, but some inhabit mammal burrows, burrow in sand or climb in bushes. They are omnivorous scavengers, and apparently feed mostly on dead invertebrates. In a cave in southern France, there is a 16,000-year-old painting of a species of the cave cricket genus Troglophilus; it is the earliest known picture of an insect.
About 250 species live worldwide; there are three genera and seven species in British Columbia. Tropidischia xanthostoma (Scudder), the Square-legged Camel Cricket, is a spectacular red-brown insect with extremely long antennae and legs. The tibiae are square in cross-section and bear rows of fine, overlapping teeth along the four ridges. Spreadeagled, the insect can measure 20 mm across the legs. It ranges from B.C. south to California; it is mostly coastal, but there is a record from the Kamloops region. A nocturnal insect, it roams streambanks in coastal forests and is also found under bridges, in old wells, caves and basements.
Pristoceuthophilus species have a horn-like tubercle on the head above the bases of the antennae and males have tubercles covering the top of the abdomen. They are primarily denizens of woodland and live in rotten logs, under rocks and bark, and in damp places in buildings. There are three species in southern B.C.: P. celatus (Scudder) is the most common and widespread; it and P. pacificus (Thomas) range from Vancouver Island to the Rocky Mountains; P. cercalis Caudell (includes P. gaigei Hubbell) lives in the wet belt of the Columbia-Kootenay region.
Ceuthophilus lacks the head projection of Pristoceuthophilus and the tuberculate abdomen of the males of that genus. C. agassizii (Scudder) is a pale species found from Vancouver Island across southern B.C. (north to the Chilcotin) to southern Alberta and south to Oregon. C. alpinus Scudder is primarily a prairie insect known from grassland sites in the southern Interior and the Peace River region. In B.C., C. vicinus Hubbell is recorded only from the Okanagan Valley.
Tachycines asynamorus Adelung is a cosmopolitan species established in greenhouses, where it can be a minor pest. In Canada, it has been recorded only from Saskatchewan to Quebec, but likely will be reported in B.C. before long.
Family Stenopelmatidae (Jerusalem crickets, sand crickets)
These are a relict group of a once more widespread fauna. Distinctive, they have a heavy, smooth and shiny, wingless body and short, powerful legs; the tibiae are flattened and have strong spines for digging in the soil. The head is unusually large, with small, widely spaced compound eyes; the antennae are short. The ovipositor is short and inconspicuous.
Stenopelmatids are nocturnal, living in burrows during the day and emerging to scavenge dead animal matter, to prey on other insects and to eat roots and other plant material. They are sometimes minor pests, feeding on seedling roots and potato tubers. They mate in the spring, and are usually most easily seen and heard then, their stridulations sounding like pieces of sandpaper rubbed together. This sound is produced by the hind femur rasping against spines on the side of the abdomen. Males also drum their abdomen on the floor of their burrows to attract females. Apparently the female often kills and eats her mate; she then lays her oval white eggs in a nest-like burrow. Individuals often require more than five years to mature.
The Jerusalem crickets make up a small family of about 35 species in six genera worldwide, mostly in Central America and the west coast of North America and some in southeast Asia and South Africa.
Members of the only genus in B.C., Stenopelmatus, are up to 50 mm long, yellow-brown with dark brown bands on the abdominal segments. There are only two species recorded for the province, S. fuscus Haldemann and S. longispina Brunner von Wattenwyl. However, the taxonomy of the genus is in flux and, evidently, the species recorded in B.C. as S. fuscus is actually undescribed. It is reported from southern Vancouver Island and the Okanagan Valley, and is rather common in the latter area. Remains were often found in Burrowing Owl pellets when that rare bird nested in the Okanagan. The other species, S. longispina, lives on the south coast (including the Fraser River delta) and the southwestern interior. The apical spurs on its hind tibia are cylindrical; on the so-called S. fusca they are spatulate or trowel-shaped.
Family Tettigoniidae (shield-back katydids, decticids)
These large orthopterans are generally short-winged (if fully developed, they are often narrowly leaf-like) and have a large, shield-like pronotum extending over the base of the abdomen (thus the English name of the family). Other characteristics include: antennae usually longer than the body, the bases situated between the eyes; prosternum often with a pair of spines; front tibia normally with a spine at the apex; tarsi have the first and second segments laterally grooved; ovipositor is stout, sword-like, usually somewhat upcurved, but sometimes fairly straight. Most family members live on the ground, but some climb in shrubs and trees; many are active during the day. Females normally lay their eggs in the soil. Most species are at least partly carnivorous, and some exclusively eat animal matter, especially other insects; however, when abundant, some devastate crops and other vegetation.
There are about 400 species around the world. All species in Canada belong to the tribe Decticini (often referred to as decticids) and most are longer than 25 mm, have shortened wings and are brown, grey or black rather than predominantly green, although green or yellow colour phases of some B.C. species occur. Six genera and at least eight species occur in the province.
Apote robusta Caudell is a little known brown and grey species that ranges from southern B.C. to Oregon. Probably a denizen of shrubs in dry areas, in B.C. it is recorded from the Thompson-Okanagan region and the Victoria area. The ovipositor is unusual; it is curved downwards. Neduba steindachneri (Hermann) inhabits Garry Oak and Arbutus woodlands on southern Vancouver Island and ranges east to the Fraser River Canyon. Specimens are pale brown or yellow, often marked with black leg bands and abdominal stripes. The pronotum is large -- half the length of the body; its flat top is broad at the back and conceals the stubby wings. The hind femur is very long, twice as long as the pronotum. Males stridulate at night: a weak tick tick zeer zeer zeer.
Three, possibly four, species of mormon crickets live in the southern interior of B.C. They are dark brown or green with relatively short, stout legs and a swollen abdomen; the ovipositor is long and straight or slightly upcurved. Anabrus simplex Haldemann is the most widespread North American species; it stridulates in the morning with a high-pitched, rapid zwee-zwee-zwee. It is apparently less common in the province than A. longipes Caudell, which is probably the species reported as overwhelming the grasslands around Vernon in 1892, 1913-15 and 1925, and attracting huge numbers of Swainson’s Hawks, which gorged on the insects. A. cerciata Caudell is rare; A. spokan Rehn and Hebard is not yet recorded for B.C. but probably occurs in the extreme southern valleys.
Peranabrus scabricollis (Thomas), the Coulee Cricket, has a pronotum with a distinctive rough, pebbly surface and strong lateral ridges. The ovipositor is much longer than the hind femur. It lives in grasslands, especially sagebrush steppes; in B.C., it is restricted to the Thompson-Okanagan region. The taxonomy of the genus Steiroxys is confused, and there are probably one or two undescribed species in B.C., ranging in from Vancouver Island to the Rockies in both low and high altitude grasslands. They are diurnal. Sphagniana sphagnorum (F. Walker) lives in northern forests and adjacent peatlands; in B.C. it ranges from the Kootenays to the Peace River region.
Suborder Caelifera (locusts and grasshoppers)
Family Acrididae (short-horned grasshoppers, locusts)
The name “akridos” means “grasshopper” or “locust ” in Greek. The family contains our most familiar grasshoppers, which, because of their abundance and appetite for vegetation, often become agricultural pests. In general, their appearance and biology matches that of the suborder Caelifera (see above) to which they belong.
The Acrididae is a huge and diverse family of more than 7000 species and 1100 genera worldwide. There are 64 species in 31 genera in B.C.
There are several broad groups (subfamilies) in the B.C. fauna. The melanopline grasshoppers (subfamily Melanoplinae) have a spine or tubercle on the prosternum; there are 28 species, including 21 in the largest genus of B.C. orthopterans, Melanoplus. These are the main non-stridulating grasshoppers in our region. They can be economically damaging when densities increase; except for the Clear-winged Grasshopper, Camnula pellucida (Scudder), all our major grasshopper pests belong to Melanoplus. The most destructive are M. sanguinipes (Fabricius),the Migratory Grasshopper; M. femurrubrum (DeGeer), the Redlegged Grasshopper; and M. bivittatus (Say), the Twostriped Grasshopper. Perhaps the quintessential B.C. grasshopper, Buckellacris chilcotinae (Hebard), was first described from B.C.’s Chilcotin region and is common on dry brushy grassland throughout the interior of the province. It was discovered by Ronald Buckell (the genus is named after him), an early student of B.C. Orthoptera. The genus Schistocerca, which includes the notorious desert locust of the Old World, S. gregaria (Forskål) and its less famous North American relatives (they do not occur in B.C.), is in a different spur-throated group (Subfamily Cyrtacanthacridinae).
Males of many band-winged grasshoppers (subfamily Locustinae) leap suddenly from the bare ground that they prefer, flashing their coloured wings and making clacking sounds by snapping the hindwings (crepitation) They then disappear as they land, camouflaged on the ground by their dull colours. This behaviour is obviously effective in distracting predators, but is also used in courtship. Many species live in the grasslands of the dry interior and other open places in southern B.C. The most common large species is Dissosteira carolina (Linnaeus), the Carolina Grasshopper, wings black with a pale border; it is widespread across the southern parts of the province. Another in this genus, D. spurcata Saussure, is recorded only from Oliver in Canada; it ranges south to California and Utah. There are many species with striking red or yellow hindwings; one of the most common is Arphia pseudonietana (Thomas), the Redwinged Grasshopper. Camnula pellucida (Scudder), the Clear winged Grasshopper, is one of the most abundant of all North American grasshoppers; it has clear hindwings and does not crepitate, but, like many other band-winged grasshoppers, stridulates with the femur scraping the tegmen. There are 33 species in the subfamily in B.C.; two additional species are recorded, but are not established. The ten species in the genus Trimerotropis include T. longicornis E.M. Walker, which was described from Vernon and is still only known from there.
Ten species of slant-faced grasshoppers (subfamily Gomphocerinae) live in the province. As their name suggests, the front of the face slants down and backwards; the hindwings are usually clear. They stridulate with the femur, rubbing the inside face against the tegmen, making a soft buzzing or lisping sound. These grasshoppers feed mostly on grasses and sedges and are common in both dry grasslands and damp situations bordering marshes and in wet meadows. As an example, Pseudopomala brachyptera (Scudder) has light brown males and pale grey females; the face is strongly slanting, the base of the antennae is flattened and the tegmina are short – a third the length of the abdomen in females and half the length in males. It lives in both bunchgrass and damp meadows in the interior.
Family Tetrigidae (pygmy grasshoppers; grouse locusts)
This is a cosmopolitan family of about 850 species, easily recognized by their small size (7 to 20mm) and the elongated and pointed pronotum, which covers the wings and abdomen and extends past the end of the abdomen. The mouth is surrounded by the front of the prosternum. The front and mid tarsi have two segments, the hind tarsi have three. The forewings are reduced to scales. Pygmy grasshoppers have no specialized stridulatory structures and lack a tympanum. They usually live near water on bare soil or sand, but also occur in low vegetation, especially where it is damp. They feed mainly on microscopic algae on wet soil. Females lay eggs laid in soil, but no foam is used to form them into a pod. Many species swim freely, and some, especially in Asia, are largely aquatic, swimming with the help of broad hind tibiae. In temperate climates, tetrigids overwinter as adults.
All three B.C. species belong in the genus Tetrix and range from 7.5 to 13.5 mm long. The most common is T. subulata (Linnaeus), one of the most widely distributed orthopterans – it ranges across Eurasia and northern North America south into the U.S. It, along with the other two species, T. brunnerii (Bolívar) and T. ornata (Say), lives as far north as the northern Yukon. T. subulata prefers damp sandy soils; it flies readily. T. brunnerii mostly inhabits meadows and peatlands in forested areas; T. ornata likes damp, grassy areas, but also occurs in dry places.