Sabi Sabi Wild Facts: Elegant Grasshopperon Dec 14, 2014
The beauty of this grasshopper is breath-taking, but it should not be taken lightly. Often bright colours in nature are used to show danger and this little insect is no different. Bright colouration is called aposomatic colouration and it will let any potential predator know that it is poisonous. Aposomatic colouration is not often used in mammals, but insects in particular use colours for protection as their predators, such as birds and other insects, have colour vision.
This grasshopper gets its toxicity from the plants that it eats and can contain a number of different poisons such as cardiac glycosides or pyrrolizidine alkaloids and even cannabinoids. Yes, they eat cannabis and can store its toxins. They also produce a yellow liquid through their exoskeleton, which makes them taste horrible; again to deter predators.
The Elegant grasshopper's colouration has been so successful in deterring predators, that because they have no real need to escape, the males have very underdeveloped wings. When they do jump they often come back down to earth very clumsily, landing on their backs or sides before trying to get back onto their feet. The females have much better developed wings which they need in order to find males with which to reproduce.
Despite their poisonous nature, people have been known to eat Elegant grasshoppers. The Pedi tribes used to eat them with their porridge to add more flavor and had no ill effects from the poisons. It is possible that the quantities of toxin are just not high enough to harm humans but would still have an effect on smaller creatures.