Is This an Authentic Photo of a Psychedelic-Colored Grasshopper?


With a body colored like a painted desert sunset, a widely circulated photograph shared to social media in mid-September 2021 claimed to show a surreally hued grasshopper spotted in Michigan.

The photo was posted to Reddit on Sept. 14, 2021, and had been upvoted more than 77,000 times as of this writing:

In an email to Snopes, Chris Grinter, an entomology collection manager at the California Academy of Science, confirmed what many posters had suggested: the grasshopper pictured was Dactylotum bicolor. Though the insect in question does exist in the natural world, Grinter noted that southeast Michigan is out of its range. For that matter, a search of specimen-based records database Scan-Bugs did not return any known results east of the Mississippi. (See for yourself by following this link, clicking the “Maps” tab, and then “display coordinates in Google Map.”) 

“Most importantly this species does not ever develop full wings and cannot fly, meaning natural distribution is out of the question and it probably didn’t hitch a ride on a truck,” said Grinter. 

“Someone likely collected this elsewhere and took a photo in Michigan or snagged the photo from the web and it isn’t theirs, or there is a small chance this species was introduced into southeast Michigan by someone else and this Reddit user happened to photograph a wild specimen.” 

Also known as the rainbow, paper, or barber pole grasshopper, iNaturalist notes that D. bicolor is endemic to the United States, Canada, and northern Mexico. 

Measuring up to 1.5 inches, D. bicolor lives in shortgrass prairies, desert grasslands, and thinly vegetated areas like alfalfa fields. And its psychedelic coloration is an evolutionary strategy known as aposematism, an “advertising” by an animal to warn off predators, according to insect identification database Bug Guide

Sources:

dosangst. “🔥 Really Cool Grasshopper Spotted in a Backyard in S.E. Michigan.” R/NatureIsFuckingLit, 12 Sept. 2021, www.reddit.com/r/NatureIsFuckingLit/comments/pmy84s/really_cool_grasshopper_spotted_in_a_backyard_in/.

“Is This a Real Rainbow Grasshopper?” Snopes.Com, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/rainbow-grasshopper/. Accessed 16 Sept. 2021.

“Rainbow Grasshopper (Dactylotum Bicolor).” INaturalist, https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/179324-Dactylotum-bicolor. Accessed 16 Sept. 2021.

SCAN Collections Search Results. https://scan-bugs.org/portal/collections/list.php?taxa=Dactylotum%20bicolor&thes=1&type=1&db=all&page=1. Accessed 16 Sept. 2021.

Species Dactylotum Bicolor – Rainbow Grasshopper. https://bugguide.net/node/view/31526. Accessed 16 Sept. 2021.



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