During its year-long life, a grasshopper develops from an egg to a nymph to an adult. Molting occurs five to six times, but only during the nymph stage. That’s when it resembles a small adult without wings. Unlike other arthropods, which molt throughout their entire lives, most insects—including grasshoppers—stop molting once they become adults.
When it’s time to molt, a grasshopper’s body produces hormones that signal it can no longer support its increasing mass. The insect then begins to grow a new exoskeleton inside its old one. “It’s like growing a sleeping bag inside a sleeping bag,” says John Ewer, an entomologist at the University of Valparaíso in Chile.
Once the new shell is ready, the insect gulps in as much air as possible and breaks out of its old shell. Then it quickly attaches its muscles and nerves to the new shell. In this state they are easy prey for predators, “so they molt as quickly as possible, often in a few minutes,” says Ewer.