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Rare pink grasshoppers found by seven-year-old bug superfan

PUBLISHED: 19:00 22 June 2020 | UPDATED: 10:19 23 June 2020

Katy Bell's seven-year-old son James found two rare pink grasshoppers in their Martlesham Heath garden Picture: KATY BELL

Katy Bell's seven-year-old son James found two rare pink grasshoppers in their Martlesham Heath garden Picture: KATY BELL

Archant

An insect-mad seven-year-old who wished he would find a brand new species of bug has found a pair of rare pink grasshoppers in his garden.

James and his nine-year-old sister Tilly have been hunting their garden for bugs in between homeschooling in lockdown Picture: KATY BELLJames and his nine-year-old sister Tilly have been hunting their garden for bugs in between homeschooling in lockdown Picture: KATY BELL

James Bell, who lives in Martlesham Heath with his mum and nine-year-old sister Tilly, loves nothing more than looking for insects and catching creepy crawlies.

While hunting in his garden on June 22 he was amazed to find the brightly-coloured grasshopper in the undergrowth – but little did he expect to return to the same spot later that day and find a second one.

A genetic mutation turns the grasshoppers bright pink, making them easier for predators to spot. As a result, they usually do not make it to adulthood Picture: KATY BELLA genetic mutation turns the grasshoppers bright pink, making them easier for predators to spot. As a result, they usually do not make it to adulthood Picture: KATY BELL

Grasshoppers are typically brown or green or a combination of the two, but some will be bright pink due to a genetic mutation called erythrism, which causes some pigments in the bug’s body to be overproduced.

It is caused by a recessive gene that affects grasshoppers in a similar way to albino animals.

A common grasshopper next to one of James' rare pink grasshoppers Picture: KATY BELLA common grasshopper next to one of James' rare pink grasshoppers Picture: KATY BELL

Their striking colour makes them an easy target for predators and few make it to adulthood.

Pink grasshoppers have been found in Ipswich and Dunwich Heath in the last decade, but few have ever reported finding more than one.

The pink grasshoppers were found in the Bell family garden in Martlesham Heath Picture: KATY BELLThe pink grasshoppers were found in the Bell family garden in Martlesham Heath Picture: KATY BELL

James’ mum Katy Bell said he has been a busy bee in lockdown, building three bug hotels to encourage wildlife into their garden and catching hundreds of insects that now live in bug houses throughout their home.

“James is fascinated by bugs. He is not as fond of the things he has to do for school, but he absolutely loves bugs,” she said.

This is just one of the bug houses that James' grasshoppers, butterflies and woodlice call home Picture: KATY BELLThis is just one of the bug houses that James' grasshoppers, butterflies and woodlice call home Picture: KATY BELL

“He had to write down three wishes he had in lockdown for some school work and his first wish was to find a bug that’s never been found before, so I think this is pretty close.

“He usually searches for them in our garden and sometimes in my parents garden and he’s found all sorts. He has caught butterflies, grasshoppers and the biggest woodlouse I’ve ever seen.”

James, seven, loves collecting bugs in his garden and has found two adult pink grasshoppers Picture: KATY BELLJames, seven, loves collecting bugs in his garden and has found two adult pink grasshoppers Picture: KATY BELL

“I’m a paediatric occupational therapist, so doing the new juggling act of working and teaching and parenting has been a real challenge,” she added.

“But on days like this when the kids can run about and play in the sun, it’s brilliant.”

A close-up photo of another pink grasshopper spotted by Robert McKenna at Dunwich Heath Picture: ROBERT MCKENNA/NEWZULUA close-up photo of another pink grasshopper spotted by Robert McKenna at Dunwich Heath Picture: ROBERT MCKENNA/NEWZULU

“I have found thousands of grasshoppers, but this is the only pink one and I think it might lay eggs,” said James, who thinks the pink grasshopper may be a female.

Tilly added that the bugs they have been well looked after once they are caught, saying: “They eat leaves once they are in the bug houses.”


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