The Mystery of the kamikaze Grasshopper

As the Dog days of summer warm the rivers and the hatches of Caddis and Stonflies begin to wane many seasoned fly angler looks to the  fly box that has now found its way to the bottom of the boat bag or the forgotten vest pocket.  The Terrestrial box is often viewed with some skepticism by most anglers, after all there is no real hatch to match, no floating emergers or duns to examine on the water. Terrestrials(land-based) insects that fall or fly into the water are generally not on our radar.  Come those warm sunny days of August when there are few if any hatches from mid morning until the sun goes behind the hill side is when those land born bugs are a trouts best chance at a big meal.  Of the many types of terrestrials, Ants, Beetles, Crickets, Spiders and Grasshoppers, Grasshoppers are perhaps the most important of these insects. There are 548 species of North American grasshoppers and 133 of these occur in Colorado. The life cycle of the Grasshopper goes a long way to explaining it’s overall importance in the Fly fishing world

The egg pod is the initial stage of a grasshopper’s life cycle. The mother grasshopper lays fertilized eggs in midsummer, and they remain 1 or 2 inches under the sand or in leaf litter. She sprinkles them with a sticky semisolid substance that sets to form an egg pod. Each egg pod contains 15 to 150 eggs, depending on the species. Normally a female grasshopper can lay up to 25 pods. The eggs remain underneath for about 10 months in autumn and winter before hatching into nymphs during spring or in the initial days of summer.

The second stage of the life cycle is the nymph stage. Nymphs look like adult grasshoppers, called molts, apart from the fact that they are wingless and lack reproductive organs. They undergo five substages known as instars before fully developing into adult grasshoppers; each instar is characterized by shedding of the cuticle skin and gradual growth of wings.  This stage is also the molting stage as grasshoppers  shed their exoskeleton much like the Stonefly and becomes an adult.  The adults can live 1-2 months depending on weather.

this where the suicidal part comes into play.  A few species of land born insects are often the hosts to a parasitic inhabitant  commonly known as the Hairworm.

Scientists say hairworms, which live inside grasshoppers, pump the insects with a cocktail of chemicals that makes them commit suicide by leaping into water. The parasites then swim away from their drowning hosts to continue their life cycle.   A team of French biologists made the discovery after monitoring grasshoppers that became trapped in a swimming pool in southern France.

Fortunately for those of us who happen to guide/fish the rivers/streams in Colorado the Hopper is a common pest as well as a Big Mac happy meal to the trout.  With all the new materials available to tyers these days it’s no wonder the amount of crazy as well as very realistic patterns of hoppers exist today.  It was just a short decade or so ago that your choices were limit to Dave’s, Joe’s or Parachute hoppers that were tied using more natural   materials.  In today’s world of Foam and other synthetics the Hopper has taken on a whole new life.

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