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The differential grasshopper, Melanoplus differentialis, is a species of grasshopper found throughout northern Mexico, central United States and southern Ontario, Canada. Within its range M. differentialis is most often found in heavily weeded areas and grasslands; they can be spotted in vacant lots and other urban areas. The differential grasshopper is not migratory but can travel within a few miles to search for food.
Adult males grow to 28–37 mm and females grow to 34–50 mm. They are brownish or greenish and as they age the color will darken. Some nymphs can be bright yellow.
There is only one generation a year which occurs in early summer. Once they hatch the nymphs take around 32 days to become complete adults. Adults are most active during the summer while the larvae are active in the spring. It is polyphagous, eating both grasses and forbs but experiments have shown that they grow faster if fed forbs. Its most favored food plants tend to be giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida), common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) and prickly lettuce (Lactuca serriola).
Melanoplus differentialis is considered a pest in most of its range. The young will feed upon various grains, alfalfa and hay crops while the adults will attack the corn, cotton and deciduous fruit crops. A single swarm can often deplete a younger crop to nothing in a matter of a few days. Because this species has a tendency to stay in large swarms while eating, it is a serious issue for farmers in most of its range. In the northern part of the range it is joined equally in numbers by the two-striped grasshopper (M. bivittatus) but it strongly out numbers it in the southern portion.
(Adapted from Wikipedia, 12 August 2013)