Beautiful Science

Crickets, grasshoppers and their cousins the katydids don't just come in brown and green. Their palette includes yellow, black and pink; some even come in polka dots or stripes. Living in the understorey of the forests of the Bukit Timah and Central
PHOTO: COURTESY OF TAN MING KAI

Crickets, grasshoppers and their cousins the katydids don't just come in brown and green. Their palette includes yellow, black and pink; some even come in polka dots or stripes.

Living in the understorey of the forests of the Bukit Timah and Central Catchment nature reserves, for instance, is a yellow-striped Traulia azureipennis. It belongs to the short-horned grasshopper family and can also be found in other parts of South-east Asia.

Also found in Singapore are the unique Chorotypus grasshopper, which eludes detection with its dead leaf-like appearance, and the Scambophyllum katydid, which is ant-like and black when it is a juvenile (above) and becomes green in adulthood. An adult Scambophyllum also has bright red hind wings - meant to distract predators - which are revealed when it flies.

Globally, there are around 27,000 species, including 250 species in Singapore, belonging to the orthoptera order, which places them among the most common macro-invertebrates on earth. The name orthoptera was derived from the Greek "ortho" meaning straight and "ptera" meaning wing, a reference to the parallel-sided structure of the front wings. The hind legs of these insects are large in proportion to their bodies, which enables them to jump long distances.

Crickets and katydids also rub their wings together to produce sound, while grasshoppers do so by rubbing their hinds legs with their abdomen.

Humans are unable to hear the chirping of grasshoppers as the frequency is too high.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 17, 2015, with the headline 'Beautiful Science'. Print Edition | Subscribe