I first observed and photographed these wingless grasshoppers in early September 2007 in a rocky area north and east of the Obstruction Point parking area in Olympic National Park (4).
Since then, I’ve photographed the grasshoppers every summer at several other locations between Blue Mountain and Hurricane Hill, including a rocky hill on Sunrise Ridge (5) and a dry wash along the Slab Camp trail east of Deer Park (6). They always seem to favor large scree at the edges of low foliage. They appear to be most numerous at the Obstruction Point site. All of these sites are above treeline (see location information below).
In searching through old Ektachrome slides, I found this photo I took of Nisquallia in 1985. This looks like a nymph.
Females (3) are larger and more easily noticed. The female is in the lower center in image 1. From the look of her stretched abdomen, and its apparent angle, I guess she is laying eggs. It’s not easy getting field photos of a male and female in a single frame, but not mating or mate guarding (see menu). In this case, they were mating, but jumped apart just before I took this photo.
Identification was confirmed in 2012 by Tim McNary, USDA-APHIS, based on specimens I supplied.
(Thanks to helpful folks on bugguide.net for the initial tip on indentification.)
A related species—also flightless and found above treeline—is the Cascade Timberline Grasshopper, Prumnacris rainierensis.
Nisquallia olympica was described as a new genus and species in 1952 by James A. G. Rehn, then curator of insects at the Academy of Natural Sciences (citation below). The description is based on two females and one (damaged) male collected at the same time, in 1922, on Mt. Ellinor, in the southwest Olympic mountains. As far as I can tell, those appear to be the only specimens noted in the scientific literature. The Rehn paper (citation below) includes photos of the specimens. (See Identification in menu above.) In 2009, we climbed the USFS trail to the peak of Mt. Ellinor, but saw no grasshoppers (of any species). Little of the environment we saw along that trail looks like the environment in the north Olympics where we’ve observed this species. The Rehn paper notes: “We have no information as to the elevation at which the material of Nisquallia was secured.” In the north Olympics, we’ve only seen the grasshoppers on ridges above treeline.
“Two New Melanoploid Genera (Orthoptera: Acrididae: Cyrtacanthacridinae) from the Western United States” James A. G. Rehn, Transactions of the American Entomological Society (1890-), Vol. 78, No. 2 (Jun., 1952), pp. 101-115. (See JSTOR link Available to read onlline with a free account.)Jacques R. Helfer, How to Know the Grasshoppers, Crickets, Cockroaches and Their Allies, Wm. C. Brown, 1963 (republished in 1987 by Dover)
• Sunrise Ridge trail, approximate location: 47°58'46"N 123°28'52"W, about 5,400 ft. elevation
• Hurricane Hill trail, 47°58'44.24"N 123°31'8.63"W, about 5200 ft. elevation
• Blue Mountain, 47°57'17.33"N 123°15'32.64"W, about 5,800 feet.
• A contributor to bugguide.net wrote to say he has observed N. olympica on Mt. Townsend above treeline, 47°52'01.54"N 123°03'34.45"W.