NAGANO – Several red-winged grasshoppers (akabane-batta in Japanese), categorized as likely to become extinct in Japan, have been spotted in a grassland area in Nagano Prefecture, where they had not been seen in five decades, prefectural officials said.
The red-winged grasshopper is described in the Environment Ministry’s red list of endangered species as critically endangered, and had not been seen anywhere in Japan since a sighting in 1986 in Niigata Prefecture.
Nagano Prefecture classified the species as extinct in its own red list in 2004.
Masaaki Kobayashi, 73, a grasshopper specialist living in Iida, Nagano Prefecture, and staff from the prefectural government found several of the insects, both male and female, last August, officials announced Tuesday.
The search was prompted by an unconfirmed report in a grassy area in 2013.
“I had thought (the species) was extinct, so my hands trembled when I actually found them,” said Kobayashi, who was involved in drafting the prefecture’s 2004 red list that classified the akabane-batta as extinct in Nagano.
“But I fear they may be gone again as soon as their environment changes, so I think I’m going to quietly monitor them here” without disturbing their habitat, he said.
The Nagano Prefectural Government has been working on updating its red list since 2012.
According to the Environment Ministry, the red-winged grasshopper is classified as medium to large in size, and is characterized by its partly red hind wings. It is believed the species has tended to inhabit areas close to human activity, including pine forests in coastal areas and inland areas where grass is regularly cut for cattle feed.
Kobayashi, who said his interest in insects started in his university years, collected akabane-batta back then. After graduating, he became a teacher at a prefectural high school and continued his insect research, sometimes going out into local grasslands with students, but was never able to find the species again.