Pet Talk

In this week’s Pet Talk, know about grasshoppers, fireflies, bats, snails, lobsters, earthworms and cockroaches.

By Maneka Gandhi

How to differentiate between a grasshopper and a cricket?

Crickets have long antennae while grasshoppers have short ones. Crickets make sounds with the help of organs on their forelegs, while these organs are on the abdomen of the grasshoppers. Crickets make sound by rubbing wings together, while grasshoppers do so by rubbing hind leg with forewings. Grasshoppers can be seen in both day and nights, while crickets come out only at nights. The feeding habits of grasshoppers differ from that of crickets. While grasshoppers are herbivorous, crickets are predatory in nature and are both omnivorous as well as herbivorous. Grasshoppers are mostly green, to blend into grass or vegetation, though there are many bright coloured varieties of grasshoppers in the world. Crickets are mostly dark coloured (black or brown) to blend into the night or vegetation. Crickets have ears in their legs, whereas grasshoppers have ears in their abdomen. Grasshoppers can fly, also jump higher. Crickets’ wings are mostly absent, and they do not fly.

Are grasshoppers poisonous?

It depends on which kind of grasshopper. Some species are perfectly edible. Others contain chemicals that make them poisonous, or at least so noxious that almost nothing will eat them. Such grasshoppers often display bright colours as warning to predators. For example, some grasshoppers, when you pick them up, exude a foamy, slimy liquid with an utterly nauseating smell. There isn’t any bird that will eat these, and even ants seem to avoid them.

What months are you most likely to see fireflies?

It depends on where you are. Fireflies are found on five continents throughout the world, and can appear at different times of year depending on the local climate. They tend to like warm, fairly wet weather. In India, they tend to appear in June, July, August and September.

Do bats eat fireflies? Why do bats hang upside down?

Yes, bats feed on adult fireflies. Bats hang upside down to roost and sleep, because the bones in their hind legs are lightweight and cannot support a bat’s body weight in an upright stance. While they rest, bats wrap their wings around themselves like a cloak.

Is a snail’s shell its house?

The snail’s shell offers some protection from predators and from drying out, but no, the shell isn’t really the snail’s house. The snail seeks places to live that are moist and have food, often under old rotting logs, under stones, in the rotting leaves of the forest floor, and other secretive places.

Can snails outgrow or leave their shells?

No. The shell is present from the snail’s early development, is attached to the snail, and grows along with the snail in a spiral shape. A snail can’t crawl out of its shell any easier than you can walk away from your fingernails! The very centre coil of a shell is where it began in life, and as the snail grows, the shell grows around that centre in a spiral form.

Snails burrow under the leaves and soil and hibernate. Their heart rate slows to where it hardly beats at all, and the snail’s blood contains chemicals that prevent it from freezing, similar to many insects and other invertebrates, and even frogs and other animals. The snail seals the opening of its shell with a thick membrane of mucus for further protection before it takes a long winter nap.

How long do snails live?

It is generally thought that snails live 2-3 years in their natural habitat, but this depends upon the species, predation, human disturbances, and other factors. In captivity, they can live many more years.

What do lobsters eat?

Lobsters eat crabs, sea stars, sea urchins, plankton and small fish. They are not by nature cannibalistic, except when held in crowded conditions (traps, ponds with no food).

What’s an average lifespan of a lobster?

A lobster’s lifespan averages 31 years for males and 54 years for females.

How long can a lobster live out of water?

A hard-shell lobster can live up to 36 hours out of water if kept in cool and moist conditions. Since lobster is a gill breather, wet newspaper and/or seaweed helps keep them moist.

Why do earthworms come into driveways and sidewalks when it rains?

Earth worms come to the surface during rains (especially in the spring) so they can move overland. The temporarily wet conditions give worms a chance to move safely to new places. Since worms breathe through their skin, the skin must stay wet in order for the oxygen to pass through it. After rains, or during high humidity, are safe times for worms to move around without dehydrating. It is true that, without oxygen, worms will suffocate. But earthworms can survive for several weeks under water, providing there is sufficient oxygen in the water to support them. They surface as a response to high relative humidity after rain because they can move around safely without drying out.