Orthoptera of North Carolina
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View Acrididae Members: NC Records

Eotettix pusillus Morse, 1904 - Little Eastern Grasshopper



Nymph

Adult male

Adult female
Taxonomy
Family: Acrididae Subfamily: Melanoplinae Tribe: Melanoplini
Comments: One of four species in this genus, all of which are restricted to southeastern North America (Cigliano et al., 2017). Only pusillus has been recorded in North Carolina.
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Capinera et al. (2004)Online Photographs: Bugguide, Google Images, GBIFTechnical Description, Adults/Nymphs: Morse (1904); Rehn and Hebard (1916a); Blatchley (1920)                                                                                  
Comments: Eotettix are small, short-winged (flightless) grasshoppers. Adults are yellowish-green, with a dark stripe on the sides of the thorax and a series of black blotches along the upper sides of the abdomen. In these features, they are similar to Melanoplus decorus and nubilus, which occur in the same habitats. However, E. pusillus has a vertical white-to-yellow stripe along the rear of the eye that is missing in the Melanoplus species; the short black bar that occurs behind the eye in the Melanoplus -- connecting to the stripe of the side of the thorax -- is conversely missing in Eotettix; the stripe on the thorax is often broken in Eotettix but usually continuous in Melanoplus; the antennae are contrastingly whitish in Eotettix, especially at the base, whereas they are yellowish-brown in the Melanoplus, similar to the color of the legs; the hind tibiae are yellow to golden in Eotettix, whereas they are greenish in the Melanoplus species.
Structural Features: Eotettix pusillus is shorter and stockier than the brachypterous Melanoplus species with which it co-occurs and has wings that are nearly circular in outline, contrasting with the oval outline found in the Melanoplus species. Cerci are conical, tapering to a point, rather than possessing the expanded tip found in Melanoplus decorus and nubilus.
Structural photos
Nymphal Stages and Development: Nymphs are unique in the North Carolina fauna, with the head and thorax bright red and the rest of the body purplish-black. The pale stripe behind the eye that is characteristic of the adults is also found in the nymphs, which additionally have white rings around the tarsi and the upper end of the femur, all of which are absent in the adults.
Distribution in North Carolina
County Map: Clicking on a county returns the records for the species in that county.
Adult Dates:
 High Mountains (HM) ≥ 4,000 ft.
 Low Mountains (LM) < 4,000 ft.
 Piedmont (Pd)
 Coastal Plain (CP)

Click on graph to enlarge
Habitats and Life History
Habitats: Our records come mainlyy from wet savannas, sandhill seeps, or the ecotones between longleaf pine communities and pocosins. All are wet-to-mesic and maintained in an open herbaceous state by frequent fire. Although reported from more general pine and oak woodlands further south, we have not found Eotettix in the drier types of these habitats in North Carolina, except in close proximity to seeps. A recent record comes, however, from a Pea Swale, a mesic, herb-rich type of Longleaf Pine habitat. This habitat is drier than the sandhill seeps but has more moisture than is typical of other upland habitats in the Sandhills.
Diet:
Observation Methods: Adults and nymphs are active during the day; the red-and-black nymphs are conspicuous
Abundance/Frequency: Usually seen in only small numbers, but nymphs were seen in abundance in a frequently-burned artillery impact area on Fort Bragg
Adult Phenology: Adults have been recorded from April to September
See also Habitat Account for Wet, Sandy, Fire-maintained Herblands
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: SR
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G2G3 S2?
State Protection: Listed as Significantly Rare in North Carolina by the Natural Heritage Program. It has no legal protection, however, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: This species is highly associated with wet savannas and sandhill seeps, both of which have greatly declined since Colonial settlement due to conversion to agriculture and silviculture. Since the 1950s, when suppression of wildfires became effective, still more habitat losses have occurred in all but habitats where fire is still frequent, mainly in preserves managed through use of prescribed burns. Unlike moth species associated with the same habitats, Eotettix may survive a fire as underground eggs. Adult emergence throughout the growing season likely ensures the presence of at least some eggs through any particular burn event. The lack of flight, on the other hand, probably significantly limits dispersal and once lost from a given site, recolonization is likely to be difficult if there are no nearby or strongly connected habitats that could serve as sources. In the Sandhills, in particular, there appear to be a number of suitable habitat patches where this species is absent, all of which underwent a prolonged period of fire suppression before fire was restored through prescribed burning. Whereas plants such as Pitcher Plants have recovered at these sites (at least where they were able to hand on in a suppressed state), the insects -- including Eotettix -- are conspicuously missing. Eotettix, in fact, appears to be one of the least common and most sparsely distributed grasshopper species associated with these habitats in North Carolina.

Image Gallery for Eotettix pusillus - Little Eastern Grasshopper

Recorded by: Steve Hall, Bo Sullivan, Jim Petranka
Scotland Co.
Comment: Found in a Pea Swale in the Sandhills Game Land
Recorded by: Steve Hall, Bo Sullivan, Jim Petranka
Scotland Co.
Comment: Found in a Pea Swale in the Sandhills Game Land
Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Pender Co.
Comment:
Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Pender Co.
Comment:
Recorded by: E. Corey
Onslow Co.
Comment:
Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Hoke Co.
Comment:
Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Cumberland Co.
Comment:
Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Cumberland Co.
Comment:
Recorded by: Steve Hall
Pender Co.
Comment: Adult male