Orthoptera of North Carolina
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View Acrididae Members: NC Records

Melanoplus nubilus Rehn & Hebard, 1916 - Nubile Melanoplus



Male

Female

Male
Taxonomy
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. Rehn and Hebard (1916a) included nubilus in the Decorus species group, which also include M. decorus and M. attentuatus in North Carolina, and M. australis south of our area.
Species Status: The type specimens were collected in 1911 by Rehn and Hebard in Fayetteville, North Carolina (Rehn and Hebard, 1916a).
Identification
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: BugGuide, Google ImagesTechnical Description, Adults/Nymphs: Rehn and Hebard (1916a); Blatchley (1920)                                                                                  
Comments: A small, short-winged (flightless) grasshopper. Adults are yellowish-green with black markings on the head behind the eye, a black stripe on the sides of the thorax, and black blotches on the dorsal sides of the abdomen. Legs are unmarked. Coloration and pattern are similar to several other species in the Decorus species group (of Rehn and Hebard, 1916a). Nubilus is typically darker than decorus. Rehn and Hebard (1916a) note that the black markings on the sides of the abdomen are particularly large in the males and also state that the dorsal surface is often very black (a condition not evident in many of the specimens that we have examined). The pale markings on the head and thorax are more greenish-yellow in nubilus and do not reach the bright golden-yellow shade found in decorus. The black stripe on the sides of the thorax usually end abruptly where the principal sulcus divides the prozona from the metazona, similar to M. attenuatus but differing from decorus, where it often continues at least shortly onto the metazona (Rehn and Hebard, 1916a). In at least some specimens that we have examined from Lake Waccamaw, however, the stripe is similar to that of decorus. Eotettix pusillus, which co-occurs with decorus, is another similar species but has an unbroken white crescent behind its eye, often has a broken rather than continuous black stripe on the sides of the thorax, and has yellowish rather than greenish hind tibiae.
Structural Features: Melanoplus nubilus is most safely distinguished from M. decorus and attenuatus by the shape of the expanded end of the male cerci: in nubilus, this knob is subtruncate and partially bifid, whereas it is rounded in decorus and more distinctly bifid in attenuatus but rounded rather than squared off (Rehn and Hebard, 1916a; Blatchley, 1920). The furcula is less than 1/3 as long as the supra-anal plate in nublilus and attenuatus but longer in decorus, whose fingers are also more divergent. The subgenital plate in both nubilus and attenuatus has a submarginal tubercle, whereas in decorus, a tubercle is located at the apex of this plate. (Rehn and Hebard, 1916a; Blatchley, 1920). Eotettix pusillus is also easily distinguished from decorus by its sub-conical cerci and by the shape of its fore-wings, which are nearly circular rather than oval.
Structural photos
Nymphal Stages and Development: Not described
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 of our records come from wet longleaf savannas, sandhill seeps, or the ecotones between longleaf and pocosin habitats.
Diet: As noted by Rehn and Hebard (1916a), individuals are often found up in pocosin shrubs, where they may be feeding, but they also occur out in the low grasses and forbs of the adjoining savannas
Observation Methods: Adults are diurnal and fairly easy to spot in shrubs or low herbaceous vegetation
Abundance/Frequency: Often common to abundant, including following burns occurring earlier in the season
Adult Phenology: Adults have been observed from early July to late October
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, all 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, Melanoplus nubilus may survive a fire as underground eggs; it is often abundant in savannas following a burn, at least where the burn occurred early in the year. The inability to fly, however, limits its ability to disperse and once gone from a particular site, it may not be able to recolonize if there are no areas of suitable habitat directly connecting it to other occupied areas. Outside of Fort Bragg, many areas in the Sandhills that appear to have suitable habitat are unoccupied, all of which have undergone 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 M. nubilus -- are conspicuously missing. Conversely, this species appears to do fairly well in natural areas that are maintained through use of frequent prescribed burns.

Image Gallery for Melanoplus nubilus - Nubile Melanoplus

Recorded by: Steve Hall
Scotland Co.
Comment:
Recorded by: Steve Hall
Scotland Co.
Comment:
Recorded by: Steve Hall
Scotland Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall
Scotland Co.
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Recorded by: E. Corey, D. Lenat
Cumberland Co.
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Recorded by: E. Corey, D. Lenat
Cumberland Co.
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Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Columbus Co.
Comment: Identity confirmed through field inspection of the cerci
Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Harnett Co.
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Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Harnett Co.
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Recorded by: Stephen Hall
Brunswick Co.
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Recorded by: Steve Hall
Brunswick Co.
Comment: 3 adult males, 1 adult female