Zayante Band-winged Grasshopper


Description and biology

The Zayante band–winged grasshopper is a small brownish-gray grasshopper with blue hind legs. It has dark bands on its front wings, pale yellow hind wings, and bands around its eyes.

Males have an average body length of about half an inch (13.7 to 17.2 millimeters). Females are larger than males, with body lengths of .75 to .85 inch (19.7 to 21.6 millimeters).

Adult Zayante band–winged grasshoppers are active between May and October. When this grasshopper is flushed out of a thicket, it has been observed to fly three to seven feet into the air.

It then lands on bare ground. It is particularly noticeable when it flies because its hind wings are yellow and produce a buzzing sound. Little is known about the life cycle of the species.

Habitat and current distribution

The Zayante band–winged grasshopper is found in Santa Cruz County, California, in the Zayante sand hills habitat, which is a sand parkland comprised of a combination of chaparral (low thickets of shrubs and small trees) and ponderosa pine forests. Within the Zayante sand hills habitat, the grasshopper is concentrated on ridges and hills in areas where plant life is sparse and much of the ground is made up of the loose sand called Zayante soils.

History and conservation measures

The Zayante sand hills ecosystem (the ecological community made up of plants, animals, and microorganisms within their environment) has been severely reduced by human activities such as sand mining, construction of homes and commercial properties, and recreation.

While there was once about 500 to 600 acres (200 to 240 hectares) of the sand parkland, now only about 250 acres (40 hectares), an estimated 40 percent of the former habitat, remains intact.

Another threat to the species is the introduction of nonnative plants to the area, particularly because forest fires, which formerly stopped alien plants from invading, are no longer allowed to occur in the area.

Apparently the shade from new species of trees reduces the usable space for the grasshoppers, while other invading plants move into the space the grasshoppers would otherwise inhabit. Pesticides (chemicals used to kill pests) have also damaged the habitat.

Since the Zayante band–winged grasshopper was listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), restrictions have been placed upon sand miners in the area, and the construction of homes and businesses has been minimized.

Research is underway to learn more about the habitat needs of the Zayante band–winged grasshopper. In 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated 10,560 acres of land in Santa Cruz County, California, as critical habitat for the endangered Zayante band–winged grasshopper.

Critical habitat is an area that the Fish and Wildlife Service deems essential to the physical and biological needs of the species, providing the appropriate space for population growth and normal behavior.

The designation does not mean that the land will become a reserve or be managed by the government, but the owners will receive education on the conservation of the Zayante band–winged grasshopper.

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