Photo of the Week – July 7, 2016

I bet you won’t be surprised to learn that this particular grasshopper feeds primarily on this particular plant…


A cudweed grasshopper stares at me as I slowly edge toward it with my camera.  The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve, Nebraska.

The coloring of the cudweed grasshopper (Hypochlora alba – aka sagebrush grasshopper, greenish-white grasshopper, mugwort grasshopper) could not be more perfect as camouflage when it sits on cudweed sagewort (Artemisia ludoviciana – aka white sage, Louisiana sagewort).  This small flightless grasshopper is known to feed on other plants, but primarily eats cudweed sagewort, a plant that has relatively few other herbivores.

I’ve been seeing this grasshopper for years, but had never been able to photograph it until last week at the Niobrara Valley Preserve.  For some reason, I’ve always seen them when I didn’t have a camera, was busy doing something else, or when the light wasn’t right for photography.  Last weekend, everything finally came together, including a grasshopper that was patient enough to allow me to stick a camera in its face without hopping away.  (This was not the first one I attempted to photograph…)


A side view of a Hypochlora alba female.

This might be the most impressive camouflage I’ve seen in an invertebrate, but it’s far from the only example of little creatures matching its environment well.  Here are a few other posts I’ve done on well-camouflaged bugs.


About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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9 Responses to Photo of the Week – July 7, 2016

  1. Wow! This is exciting. We have lots of Louisiana Sagewort in our native prairie here in the Flint Hills–perhaps this little grasshopper is here, too! I will certainly look for it. Thanks for this marvelous post.
    P.S. We’re excited here at Bird Runner because a badger has appeared in our trail cam. Badgers have been declining around here so we’re hoping their numbers will rebound! I posted the video….

  2. Cami says:

    Does he smell ‘sagey’ too? ;)

  3. steve clubine says:

    I don’t know if you consider it one of your greatest photos but I sure do. I’m gonna look for this guy on white sage here in Missouri.

  4. Phyllis McKenzie says:

    Chris, I love your photos!

    I had the chance to visit the Platte River Prairies Derr House site near Grand Island, and the Little Salt Marsh Preserve, near Lincoln, last week. Both sites were really nice, wish I’d had more time to spend. It looks like there may be a couple of Poison Hemlock plants along the path into Little Salt Marsh. You, or whoever manages that site, probably knows about it, if that’s what it was. It’s an invasive I’m not too familiar with and only realized that might be it, after I returned to Wisconsin.

    Keep up the blogging and photograhy!

    Cheers, Phyllis

    *Phyllis McKenzie* *Environmental Educator Assistant Land Steward*

    *D:* 262.389.8673 *T:* 262.375.2715

    *Mail: * P.O. Box 26 I Newburg, WI 53060 *Physical:* 4458 Co Rd Y I Saukville, WI 53080

    On Thu, Jul 7, 2016 at 3:54 PM, The Prairie Ecologist wrote:

    > Chris Helzer posted: “I bet you won’t be surprised to learn that this > particular grasshopper feeds primarily on this particular plant… The > coloring of the cudweed grasshopper (Hypochlora alba – aka sagebrush > grasshopper, greenish-white grasshopper, mugwort grasshopper” >

  5. James C. Trager says:

    That is one cool-looking grasshopper, and I mean that literally, as in frosted-glass cool.

  6. Pingback: Best of 2016 – Stories and Photos From This Year | The Prairie Ecologist


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