Lawn shrimps

For some reason, this year there has been an absolute explosion in the number of lawn shrimps around the garden. Every time I move a stone, a log or a plant pot, there will be a crowd of lawn shrimps underneath, along with hordes of woodlice.

Lawn shrimps (also known as wood or land hoppers and scientifically known as Arcitalitrus dorrieni) look very much like sand hoppers except for that the lawn shrimps are very dark in colour. Their bodies are squashed upwards with their rear ends coiled under (like a shrimp) and they tend to list to one side when they try to walk or run. They’re about 1cm to 1.5cm long, not including their antennae and they have a very shiny, almost black appearance.

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A lawn shrimp (Arcitalitrus dorrieni) also known as as land hopper or wood hopper

I have only recently discovered that lawn shrimps are relative newcomers to the UK, having arrived in the Scilly Isles in the 1920s (at least that’s when they were first documented). Since then, year by year, the lawn shrimps have been expanding their UK range. Originally, they  came from Australia.

Blackbirds and robins love to eat these little hoppers – if they notice me move something and see the hoppers, the birds will dive down to gobble them up.

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Lawn shrimp – they are devilish to photograph because as soon as they’re exposed to the light they start skittering and leaping to try and find cover again

I used to think that lawn shrimps were a kind of springtail (Collembola spp), simply because they spring, not for any taxonomic reason. I’ve even been to workshops where that’s what the shrimps have been called. In fact the lawn shrimp is most closely related to the sand hoppers that it so closely resembles. Like the sandhopper the lawn shrimp feeds on decaying material. It’s not a garden pest and is unlikely to do any harm.

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