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biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Orthoptera (crickets, grasshoppers and locusts)

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Ecdysozoa > Panarthropoda > Tritocerebra > Phylum: Arthopoda > Mandibulata > Atelocerata > Panhexapoda > Hexapoda > Insecta (insects) > Dicondyla > Pterygota > Metapterygota > Neoptera > Polyneoptera > Anartioptera > Orthopterida

The main defining character of the Orthoptera is the fact that they have the hind legs adapted for jumping: the femur is broad because it contains muscles for extending the leg quickly. There are 366 genera and 968 species native to southern Africa.

Families encountered in southern Africa

List from Orthoptera Species File.

Caelifera (grasshoppers, locusts)









The majority of non-colourful grasshopper species fall within the family Acrididae. The acridids include the locusts which are a select group of grasshoppers that are able to pass into a swarming phase subject to the right environmental conditions. There are 114 genera and 300 species native to southern Africa.



Three genera and four species, all endemic to Namibia.



Endemic to Africa south of the Sahara, mainly southern Africa, where there are 26 genera and 58 species, most of which are endemic to this subregion.



Endemic to southern Africa where there are four genera and 13 species.


Pamphagidae (toad grasshoppers)

Toad grasshoppers occur in Africa, Europe and Asia. Twenty genera and 69 species native to southern Africa. They tend to be thick-set, spiny, camouflaged grasshoppers. In many species the female is wingless.



This small family consists of four genera, three of which are endemic to southern Africa (with four species) and one endemic to Morocco (with one species).



Worldwide except for Antarctica, Western Europe and most of the northern temperate and polar regions.



The distribution of this family is limited to the Afrotropical region (i.e. Africa south of the Sahara as well as the West Indian Ocean islands (including Madagascar). Four genera and nine species are native to southern Africa.



The distribution of this family is limited to Africa and Arabia. Twenty-four genera and 70 species are native to southern Africa.




Pneumoridae (bladder grasshoppers)

All nine genera and 17 species of bladder grasshoppers occur in southern Africa and all except one species are endemic to this region. The most distinctive feature of this family is the hugely inflated abdomen of the male, used in amplifying the sound it makes by rubbing a line of ridges on the inside of its hind-femur against a crescent-shaped line of ridges on the side of the abdomen.




Pyrgomorphidae (gaudy grasshoppers)

Pyrgomorphids are usually very colourful grasshoppers, the bright colours warning predators that they are poisonous. They occur worldwide except for north temperate regions and Antarctica. Twenty-two genera and 39 species are native to southern Africa.




Tetrigidae (pygmy grasshoppers)

Occurs worldwide (except polar regions). Fourteen genera and twenty species are native to southern Africa. 






Tridactylidae (pygmy mole crickets)

Found worldwide except Antarctica and north temperate regions, with five genera and 12 species native to southern Africa.






Gryllidae (true crickets)

Occurs worldwide. In southern Africa, there are 42 genera and 123 species native to the region.


Gryllotalpidae (mole crickets)

Mole crickets have a worldwide distribution, except for polar regions. Gryllotalpa is the only genus encountered in Africa. There are sixty-nine species in this genus, distributed across Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia and southern North America, with four species native to southern Africa.


Mogoplistidae (scaly crickets)

Worldwide, except polar and north temperate regions. Five genera and seven species are native to southern Africa.




Rhaphidophoridae (camel crickets, cave crickets, cave wetas)

Occurs on all continents with localised distributions. In Africa, it is only known from two species of Spelaeiacris in the Western Cape: Spelaeiacris monslamiensis (from Hex River Mountains) and Spelaeiacris tabulae (from Table Mountain).




Schizodactylidae (dune crickets)

Disjunct distribution with Comicus in southern Africa and Angola, and Schizodactylus occurring from Turkey through to the Indian subcontinent and Burma. There are eight species of Comicus of which seven are endemic to southern Africa. The remaining species, Comicus cabonegrus, is endemic to Angola.




Anostostomatidae (king crickets, wetas)

Distribution includes southern North America, Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Nine genera and 42 species are native to southern Africa, most of them endemic.


Gryllacrididae (leaf-rolling crickets)

Has a worldwide distribution, except north temperate and polar regions, with three genera and nine species native to southern Africa.


Stenopelmatidae (Jerusalem crickets)

Distribution includes North America, Central America, Europe, Africa, Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia. Sia is the only genus of this family in southern Africa - four species, all endemic to the sub-region except for Sia pinguis, which has also been recorded from the Central African Republic.




Tettigoniidae (katydids, bush crickets)

Worldwide distribution except polar regions. There are 55 genera and 155 species native to southern Africa.


  • Lomer, C.J., Bateman, R.P., Johnson, D.L., Langewald, J. & Thomas, M. 2001. Biological control of locusts and grasshoppers. Annual Review of Entomology 46: 667-702.

  • Eades DC, Otte D, Cigliano MM, Braun H. 2013. Orthoptera Species File. Version 5.0/5.0. [retrieved 7 July 2013].