By the late Fred Fincher.
(The following text was found amongst the papers Fred Fincher left to the Worcestershire Wildlife Trust. It is not dated but was probably written around 1970 and is more up-to-date than Fincher 1953 mentioned in Worcestershire Record No 8 April 2000, pages 2-7. There have been changes: for instance both groundhoppers and the Speckled bush-cricket have now been found widely in Worcestershire, there are far more records of Oak bush-crickets which are now most often found visiting bathrooms in summer, and the Lesser Marsh Grasshopper is spreading like wild-fire! Also the Short-winged Cone-head has recently reached the county and we can expect several other coneheads to arrive soon as they are spreading rapidly from the south. Ed).
The term orthoptera is usually taken to include cockroaches, stick insects, grasshoppers, crickets, bush crickets and ground hoppers. All these are well illustrated and described in Grasshoppers, Crickets and Cockroaches of the British Isles by D.R.Ragge and published in 1935 in Warne’s Wayside and Woodland series. Forty species are included in this book. Of these thirty are native species and ten have been introduced. All the latter are dependant to some extent on artificial heat and are seldom found away from buildings. Quite a number of the native kinds are scarce and local. There is a pronounced concentration of species in the south, roughly south of a line from the Severn estuary to the Wash. This is easy to understand for most of this group are real sun lovers. Even the bush crickets, which on the whole prefer the dusk for their activity, are more plentiful in the south and south-east. However, about half of the total number of species may be expected to be found in the Midlands.
Worcestershire is right on the southern of this area and so should prove reasonably good. So far as I know there are thirteen species in Worcestershire but there are some others that might easily be found. Some of these are already known from counties to the north.
My interest was first roused when a small book was published In 1936 called British Grasshoppers and their Allies by Dr Malcolm Burr. It was subtitled A Stimulus to their Study and it certainly stimulated me. In the preface the writer stated, amongst other things, that in Shropshire and Worcestershire the Orthoptera are unknown. This was obviously too bad to be true. Moreover after dipping into the book I found that it was possible to identify many of them by their songs, just as with the birds. To a keen
bird watcher this was a great appeal and I was soon engaged in finding out something about those elusive Worcestershire grasshoppers and found ten of the thirteen on to the county list. Most of this work was done between 1937 and 1960. Since then there is some evidence to show that these insects, like butterflies, have suffered from the increased use of pesticides and changes in farming practice, but there seems to be no reason to suppose that all of them cannot still be found in suitable places especially by those with good hearing. A full list of species follows.
Blatta orientalis Common Cockroach
Noted on several occasions in Bromsgrove and could probably be found in most towns. Not a native species.
Acheta domesticus House-cricket
At one time a frequent inhabitant in old houses, bake-houses, farms, etc. During- the last war it was frequent in rubbish dumps and I have occasionally heard it away from buildings during the summer, but cold weather soon drives it to somewhere with artificial heat or kills it off, for this is another alien although well-established since an early date.
Meconema thalassinum Oak Bush-cricket
As its name suggests an inhabitant of oak woods and probably by no means uncommon. It is a beautiful pale green insect with very long antennae. It may sometimes be found amongst foliage but does not become active until dusk and will come to lighted windows. The eggs are said to hatch in May but must sometimes do so in April as I saw a well developed nymph once as early as 9th May. Adults may be found between 26th July and 20th October. Not uncommon at Randan Wood and also seen at Shrawley Wood and Wyre Forest, but probably in most suitable woods.
Pholidoptera griseoaptera Dark Bush-cricket
This is a large dark insect with very long hind legs and no wings. It is mainly found In thick hedges, especially those facing south with a rising bank to give extra shelter. Mainly found between Woodcote and Droitwich but also near Holt Heath and in Ockeridge Wood. The stridulation is a very high-pitched note but if it can be heard, then it can easily be located in the early evening. It sometimes up about mid-afternoon and may be heard at times after midnight.
Leptophyes punctatissima Speckled Bush-cricket
A similar pale green to the Oak Bush-cricket but built on much bulkier lines and thickly covered with tiny black spots. Only found so far on the old railway line east of Brotheridge Green, the Old Hills and Wyre Forest. It needs thick bushy growth and should be found on the Brotheridge Green reserve, and probably many other places where there is thick -ground cover.
Nemobius sylvestris Wood-cricket
An immature specimen taken at Shrawley Wood on 13th April 1948 was probably this species. It was submitted to two of the country’s leading experts but in the absence of several critical tibial spines neither would commit themselves to a definite decision but agreed that it was probably this species. Unfortunately I have not found any more.
Omocestus viridulus Common Green Grasshopper
A common species in grassland, especially if slightly damp. One of the typical Grasshoppers and most active in sunshine.
Chorthippus brunneus Common Field Grasshopper
Usually one of the most abundant species especially In rough grass, road verges etc. Very variable in colour and best identified by the pattern or the pronotum (thorax) and the stridulation.
Chorthippus parallelus Meadow Grasshopper
The commonest species in good meadows but found in most types of grassland. Unlike the last two this has no wings. All these three species are to be found in the adult stage from the end of June until October with the immatures during May and June,
Myrmeleotettix maculatus Mottled Grasshopper
Similar in general habits and appearance to the last three but has darker blotches and is only likely to he found on rough grass on heaths. Hartlebury Common, the light soils around Kidderminster and open parts of Wyre Forest are its main haunts. Once, near Kidderminster, I saw two almost entirely black specimens on burnt heathland. They had not become black by contact with burnt gorse etc as a close examination showed some white marks and the male had some reddish and other colours as well. This occurrence of black specimens on burnt ground has been previously noted in this species in this country and in other kinds in Africa.
Tetrix undulata Common Ground-hopper.
The groundhoppers have a different life pattern the orthoptera already mentioned. They hatch during the summer, hibernate in the immature state, and become adult during the spring. Burr refers to activity during mild weather in the winter and I have seen them as late as 23rd November and as early as 2nd February. Usual haunts are the edges of woods where there are bare spaces. They are much smaller than the typical grasshoppers but not unlike them in build. Noted at Randan Wood, Purshull Green and Wyre Forest. Their small size and concealing colours means that they are easily overlooked and so far as I know they do not stridulate.
Tetrix subulata Slender Ground-hopper.
Found once at Castlemorton Common, apparently the most north-westerly site in the country.
Chorthippus albomarginatus Lesser Marsh Grasshopper
Marked for Worcestershire on the distribution map in Ragge’s book but I have no information on this species.
|FINCHER, F 1953 Some notes on Orthoptera and Dermaptera in the West Midlands. Ent Record 65:151-154.
|see bibliography on page 3 of Worcestershire Record No 8 April 2000.