Diet

Most orthopterans eat plants, but a few species will supplement their diets with living or dead insects. Nearly all grasshoppers are plant feeders, or herbivores (URH-bi-vorz). However, when there is a lack of water, or too many individuals in a small area, some grasshoppers may begin to eat each other and scavenge their dead. Herbivores will eat all parts of grasses, weeds, shrubs, and trees. Some species living in trees will also eat lichens (LIE-kuhns) and mosses. Most species will eat whatever plants are available, but a few will eat only one kind of plant or a few closely related species.

Many species of crickets, katydids, and their relatives are also herbivores. At least one Australian katydid feeds only on the pollen and nectar of flowers. Others prefer grass seeds or just leaves. Very few katydid species feed on the needles of pines and other cone-bearing trees. Some species are omnivores (AM-ni-vorz), animals that eat both plant and animal foods, and will eat whatever is available to them. Although crickets and cave crickets tend to be omnivorous, they seem to prefer feeding on live insects. Tree crickets will eat aphids. Omnivorous mole crickets are the only insects that gather and store seeds in underground chambers. They will then use the young sprouts as food. The Central American rhinoceros katydid will eat flowers, fruits, and seeds, as well as caterpillars, other katydids, snails, and frog eggs. They have even been known to attack small lizards.

A few orthopterans are strictly meat-eaters, or carnivores (KAR-ni-vorz), and eat the flesh of other insects. These katydids either use a "sit-and-wait" strategy to ambush their prey or actively hunt for food. Prey is captured and held with the aid of sharp spines on their front and middle legs.

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