Our Treasure of the Month: The speckled buzzing grasshopper

Despite its advanced age, still in top shape: The speckled buzzing grasshopper, our Treasure of the Month. © LIB, Dey

 

110 years old, from the vicinity of Hamburg, and our Treasure of the Month: The speckled buzzing grasshopper no longer hops through the heathlands near the hanseatic city – it has become extinct there. However, for LIB research, it is incredibly valuable for this reason.

The speckled buzzing grasshopper (Bryodemella tuberculata) got its name due to the buzzing sound it produces during flights of up to 50 meters, as well as its distinct bright, spotted coloration. Especially the males excel at taking off with their well-developed wings, while females prefer to stay on the ground. This behavior is due to their mating ritual, where the males buzz and court the sitting female while flying around her.

The collection at the Museum of Nature Hamburg mainly consists of historical findings – like our treasure – from the surrounding area of the hanseatic city. Recently, newer discoveries from the region around the Isar River and from Asia have been added, collected by LIB researchers during their scientific fieldwork. In total, there are about 15 specimens in the Entomological Collection. The oldest specimens, like our treasure, have been part of the collection since the founding of the Natural History Museum.

The speckled buzzing grasshopper, with a length of about 30 to 40 millimeters, is one of the largest field crickets in Central Europe. Our Treasure of the Month shows that it used to exist near Hamburg over 100 years ago. It was found in Buchwedel near Stelle, approximately 30 kilometers away from Hamburg. Nowadays, it lacks suitable habitats because we humans have destroyed them for agriculture. The former heathland has given way to industrial agriculture, and riverbanks have been modified for navigation.

In the Lüneburg Heide, there has been a renaturation of the ecosystem, meaning that the landscape has actively been transformed back into heathland. Thus, a new habitat has been created where our treasure should feel comfortable again. According to Lara-Sophie Dey, who has extensively researched our treasure at LIB and currently leads the molecular laboratory at the Museum of Nature Hamburg, military training areas or natural riverbanks in northern Germany could also offer suitable living conditions.

However, Lara-Sophie Dey points out that a new group of bush-crickets cannot simply be released there: “We observe that the speckled buzzing grasshopper is becoming rarer in the four major regions in Europe and losing its genetic diversity. To ensure the long-term survival of the species, this genetic diversity is necessary, and it is challenging to artificially produce”. Protecting the species is essential not only for our treasure but also for related species such as the rattle grasshopper (Psophus stridulus) or the alpine groundhopper (Tetrix tuerki).

 

Unfortunately, it is no longer found alive in the vicinity of Hamburg – we can still encounter the speckled buzzing grasshopper in Asia or along the Isar River in Germany. © Livia Baez 

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