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Grasshoppers Molting

8-31-16 grasshopper molting 049A3466

Molting is the process by which insects and other arthropods grow. They have an external skeleton (exoskeleton) that supports and protects their body, unlike the internal skeleton of most other animals. Since the exoskeleton is hard and its outer layer is non-living, it cannot grow bigger by small increments as the human skeleton does. As an insect increases in size, it sheds the inelastic exoskeleton on the outside of its body, and replaces it with a larger, soft exoskeleton that has formed underneath the smaller, shed exoskeleton. Eventually this new exoskeleton hardens. This process is repeated several times during the life span of an insect (the exact number depends on the species).

Grasshoppers experience incomplete metamorphosis: they go through three stages in their life cycle – egg, nymph and adult. Nymphs are miniature versions of adult grasshoppers, except that they are usually light in color and do not possess functioning wings. Nymphs undergo five or six molts and with each molt their size increases and their wing pads progressively develop. Usually within a month nymphs molt for a final time, emerging as adults with fully developed wings. (Photo: shed grasshopper nymphal skin showing small, developing wing pads; inset – fully mature grasshopper)

4 responses

  1. Cheron barton

    Boys may like this one!!

    Sent from my iPhone


    September 1, 2017 at 10:11 am

  2. John Cannon

    Wonderful photos and information Mary. Thank you.

    September 1, 2017 at 11:36 am

  3. Mark Dindorf

    Hi Mary,

    I enjoy your blog and appreciate your insights into the natural world. Perhaps you can answer a question about something I saw the other day while kayaking on a small river in Western Maine. We encountered three separate symmetrical piles of rocks at different points in the river that were above (the low) water level and perhaps coincidentally near holes in the riverbank. The piles were nearly identical in size and shape and the size of the rocks (potato sized) was quite consistent in all three piles

    At first we surmised that they were made by a muskrat, but my wife looked it up and apparently muskrats aren’t known to move rocks.

    I’ve attached two pictures to see if you have any thoughts about what may have caused these piles. Maybe it could be a good mystery photo topic for your blog.

    Thanks for your response.

    Mark Dindorf

    PS: I once sent you some pictures of “flood balls” on saplings along the Saco River in Crawford Notch which were formed by Hurricane Irene. In that case, I knew what it was, in this case I have no idea.

    September 1, 2017 at 3:36 pm

    • Hi Mark,
      I’m not sure I can answer your question, but WordPress doesn’t pass on any photos. If you could send them to me at, that would be great! Thanks so much.

      September 1, 2017 at 5:29 pm

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