Orthoptera of North Carolina
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View Acrididae Members: NC Records

Melanoplus nossi Hill, 2014 - Noss's Short-winged Grasshopper


Family: Acrididae Subfamily: Melanoplinae Tribe: Melanoplini
Comments: Melanoplus is our largest genus of Orthopterans, with over 350 species occurring in North America (Cigliano et al., 2017). 38 species have been recorded in North Carolina. Melanoplus nossi belongs to the Tribulus species group (Hill, 2014), which currently contains nine species (Cigliano et al., 2017), of which decoratus and tribulus, have also been recorded in North Carolina.
Species Status: Populations of this species in Florida were previously considered to be Melanoplus tepidus, found in Mississippi and Alabama, but were described as a new species in 2014 by J. Hill. At the time this description was published, the North Carolina populations were not known to Hill. Previously, they had been considered by S. Hall to represent tepidus, or possibly a new species near to tepidus, which turned out to be the case when specimens sent to Hill for examination were determined to belong to nossi.
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: BugGuide, Google Images, GBIFTechnical Description, Adults/Nymphs: Hill (2014)                                                                                  
Comments: A small, short-winged (flightless), and fairly slender-bodied grasshopper. The head and body are strongly three-toned, with the dorsal surface brown from the vertex to the end of the abdomen; the post-ocular stripe, extending onto the upper sides of the thorax, is shining black; and the front of the head and lower sides of the thorax are cream-white. The legs are unmarked and yellowish brown, except for the hind-tibiae, which are bluish. Melanoplus tribulus and devius are very similar in coloration and are best distinguished by the reproductive structures of the males.
Nymphal Stages and Development: Not described. One nearly-grown nymph photographed by Hall (Martin County, 1996-06-25) shows a color pattern similar to those of the adults, although with less black on the abdomen.
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: All three of the populations recorded in North Carolina are associated with wet-to-mesic stands of hardwoods growing on nutrient-rich soils. Two are located in the floodplain of the Roanoke River, where deposits of rich sediments support a high concentration of basophilic plant species. One population was found in association with an extensive sedge meadow growing on a floodplain terrace. The other was found in association with grasses growing on the edge of a stand of hardwoods growing on a low ridge located well out in the floodplain. The third population was found in similar habitat but located on a terrace underlain with marl that in some places forms surface outcrops. Populations located in the ravines along the Apalachicola River in the Florida Panhandle are likewise rich and support distinctive populations of rare, basophilic species.
Diet: Populations have been found in association with wetland grasses and thick meadows composed of Carex.
Observation Methods: This species is diurnal and can be flushed into making short jumps by walking through its habitat.
Abundance/Frequency: Found in localized colonies where it can be fairly common
Adult Phenology: Adults have been found in June but appear to disappear by July: sampling at the same sites where they were seen earlier in the year turned up no individuals later on.
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: SR
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: GNR S1S2
State Protection: We recommend that this species be designated as Significantly Rare by the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program and added to its list of Rare Animal Species of North Carolina. This designation does not provide any legal protection, however, although permits are needed to collect it on state parks and other public lands.
Comments: Despite having a global range spanning at least 500 miles, the small number of known populations, the limited extent of the habitat that is actually known to be occupied, along with the strong possibility that it is strongly associated with rare habitat suggests that this species is globally rare. In that context, its current scarcity further indicates that it has undergone a major reduction and fragmentation in range at some time in the past. In North Carolina, where it seems to have at least as many populations as in the Apalachicola region, the lack of confirmed metapopulations and the limited extent of those that exist indicate a high degree of vulnerability. All three of its populations, in fact, are located in areas that have undergone major changes in environmental quality. The floodplain of the lower Roanoke has been greatly altered by changes in the natural flood regime caused by the construction of three large reservoirs above the Fall-line and is experiencing additional changes in habitat quality due to the spread of invasive plant species (LeGrand and Hall, 2014). The site in Pender County is even more vulnerable. The stand of marl forest that it supports was among the rarest ecosystems in the state to begin with, and much of the acreage of this site has been lost within the past few decades due to the construction of a major highway, development of a marl mine, and clearcutting and conversion of much of its former extent. More searches need to be made of floodplain sedge meadows and other wetland graminoids, including nutrient-poor blackwater habitats. Until more populations are discovered, this species should be regarded as one of the rarest and probably one of the most threatened in the state.

Image Gallery for Melanoplus nossi - Noss's Short-winged Grasshopper

Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Northampton Co.
Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Northampton Co.
Comment: Male
Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Northampton Co.
Comment: Adult male
Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Martin Co.
Comment: Adult male
Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Martin Co.
Comment: Nymph