ONH

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    Slide 1 - Nov-June

    Nisquallia olympica eggs (reddish ovals) overwinter in a foam egg case underground and under many feet of snow.

    10/13/2009, eggs laid in a terrarium

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    2 - June

    In the spring or early summer, eggs hatch and the nymphs emerge, shed a whitish covering and inflate.

    06/25/2014 Upper Wolf Creek Trail, Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    Slide 3 - June

    Within minutes of emerging from the ground, they can jump several times their own length. Their cuticle continues to harden and their color darkens.

    06/25/2014 Upper Wolf Creek Trail, Hurricane Ridge, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    Slide 4 - June

    A first instar nymph feeding on a Davidson’s Penstemon flower.

    06/23/2009 Blue Mountain/Deer Park, Olympic National Park

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    Slide 5 - July

    A later instar sitting on Piper’s Bellflower, an endemic plant of the Olympic Mountains. Many grasshopper species have five instars, including the final, sexually mature adult.

    07/11/2009 Blue Mountain/Deer Park, Olympic National Park

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    Slide 6 - August-October

    Adult males are commonly gray with black patches, but may also be brownish. Adult Nisquallia remain wingless.

    08/25/2013 Obstruction Point Area, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    Slide 7 - August-October

    Adult females appear in several colors, light gray, dark gray, brown or coppery orange. They are larger than males with a thicker abdomen.

    08/31/2013 Pumpkinseed Lake, Obstruction Point Area, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    Slide 8 - September-October

    During mating, the male clings to the female, who can still jump. His abdomen is twisted around and under hers. Males also continue to cling to mated females, in a behavior called mate guarding.

    08/23/2010 Obstruction Point Area, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    Slide 9 - September-October

    This pair (male upper left) was mating just seconds before the photo was taken. The female appears to be laying eggs.

    08/23/2010 Obstruction Point Area, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    Slide 10 - October

    Nisquallia females lay eggs later in the summer. Within a few weeks, this location, on a very exposed ridge at around 5,000 feet elevation, will be covered by many feet of snow and subject to winds gusting above 75 miles an hour.

    10/18/2008 Sunrise Ridge Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    1 - Typical environment favored by Nisquallia olympica. This is heavy shale scree with sparse vegetation. At this location, just west of the Obstruction Point parking area, snow patches remain at least through September.

    09/30/2011 Obstruction Point Area, Olympic National Park, Washington

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    2 - Typical environment favored by Nisquallia olympica. A dry creek bed on the Slab Camp trail east of Deer Park. The slope uphill from the trail is heavy, loose scree.

    09/16/2008 Blue Mountain/Deer Park, Olympic National Park

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    3 - Typical environment favored by Nisquallia olympica. A high point on the Sunrise Ridge Trail north of the Hurricane Ridge Lodge is covered in heavy scree.

    09/05/2011 Sunrise Ridge Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington

 

We first observed and photographed Nisquallia olympica, a species of wingless alpine grasshoppers, in early September 2007 in a rocky area north and east of the Obstruction Point parking area in Olympic National Park (slide 1 in the second slideshow).

Since then, we’ve studied and photographed the grasshoppers every summer at several locations between Blue Mountain and Hurricane Hill. They favor large, dry scree at the edges of low foliage and seem to be distributed extremely locally. All of these sites are above treeline (see location information below).

In 2012, Tim McNary, USDA-APHIS, confirmed the identification to species, based on specimens I collected in the Olympics.
(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, which occurs in the Oregon and Washington Cascade mountains above treeline. (see Insect or Nisquallia menu).

History

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 have been able to determine, those appear to be the only specimens noted in the scientific literature. The Rehn paper includes photos of the specimens. (See Identification in the Nisquallia menu.) 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 above treeline. A contributor to bugguide.net wrote to say he has observed N. olympica on Mt. Townsend above treeline.

Citations

“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, p195, Wm. C. Brown, 1963 (republished in 1987 by Dover)

Locations

• Obstruction Point Area, Olympic National Park, Washington, 47°55'8.02"N 123°22'53.21"W, about 6,100 ft. elevation

• Sunrise Ridge Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington, approximate location: 47°58'46"N 123°28'52"W, about 5,400 ft. elevation

• Hurricane Hill Area, Olympic National Park, Washington, 47°58'44.24"N 123°31'8.63"W, about 5000 ft. elevation

• Blue Mountain/Deer Park, Olympic National Park, 47°57'17.33"N 123°15'32.64"W, about 5,800 ft. elevation

• Mt. Townsend, 47°52'01.54"N 123°03'34.45"W.