Orthoptera of North Carolina
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View Acrididae Members: NC Records

Melanoplus pachycercus Hebard, 1935 - Thick Cercused Green-legged Melanoplus

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 pachycercus is a member of the Viridpes species group (Otte, 2002), which in North Carolina also includes acrophilus, eurycercus, deceptus, cherokee, hubbelli, and similis.
Field Guide Descriptions: Online Photographs: BugGuide, Google Images,  iNaturalist, GBIFTechnical Description, Adults/Nymphs: Hebard (1934); Otte (2002)                                                                                  
Comments: A small, contrastingly patterned, green-legged Melanoplus. Males are similar to other strongly-marked species in this group, including eurycercus, deceptus, acrophilus, and cherokee, all of which are grayish dorsally, shining black along the post-ocular line, thorax, and abdomen, and white on the face and lower sides of the pronotum. The fore and middle legs are bright green but the hind femur is white, banded with two black bands that are connected along the lower middle face. The abdominal segments are also contrastingly marked with black and white patches. These species are best distinguished based on structural features.
Forewing Length: 17-19 mm (to the end of the femur), males; 18-22 mm, females (Otte, 2002)
Structural Features: Furculae are small but distinct. The middle portion of the cerci is narrower than the terminal portion or about the same width. Tegmina are slightly shorter or longer than the pronotum, but usually do no reach the middle of the abdomen (Otte, 2002). The internal reproductive structures are diagnostic (see Hebard, 1934, and Otte, 2002, for descriptions and illustrations).
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: Otte (2002) describes the habitat as consisting of "margins of woods, sunny openings in woods and grassy mountain balds."
Diet: Undescribed
Observation Methods: Probably best found by flushing it by walking through its habitat
Abundance/Frequency: Reported to be very local in occurrence (Hebard, 1934)
Adult Phenology: Records for adults come from late spring
See also Habitat Account for Montane Forblands and Successional Fields
Status in North Carolina
Natural Heritage Program Status: SR
Natural Heritage Program Ranks: G2G3 S1S2
State Protection: Has no legal protection, although permits are required to collect it on state parks and other public lands
Comments: The global range of Melanoplus pachycercus is confined to the Southern Appalachians, where it has been recorded as far north as Mountain Lake in Virginia and as far south as Franklin in North Carolina (Otte, 2002). Only a few recent records exist, with Otte having recorded populations on Roan Mountain and along the Blue Ridge Parkway at two sites, one in Avery County and one in Yancey County, in 2000 (Otte, 2002). Like the closely related Melanoplus acrophilus, it appears to be associated with high elevation habitats and is possibly at risk due to global climate change.

Image Gallery for Melanoplus pachycercus - Thick Cercused Green-legged Melanoplus

Recorded by: Jim Petranka
Mitchell Co.
Comment: Has cerci that are blunt and widened at the tip; collected in a county with previous records for this species