Life cycles of California populations of the grasshopper, Melanoplus sanguinipes, varied along an altitudinal gradient. Temperature records indicate a longer season at low altitude on the coast, based on computation of degree days available for development, even though summer air temperatures are cooler than at high altitude; this is a result of warm soil temperatures. At high and low altitudes there was a high proportion of diapause eggs oviposited, while intermediate proportions of diapause eggs occurred at mid altitudes. The low altitude, and especially sea level, populations diapaused at all stages of embryonic development, while at high altitudes most diapause occurred in the late stages just before hatch. Diapause was more intense at high altitudes. One result of diapause differences was delayed hatching in the sea level population. Nymphal development and development of adults to age at first reproduction were both accelerated at high altitude relative to sea level. At lower temperatures (27° C) there was a tendency for short days to accelerate development of sea level nymphs, but not high altitude nymphs. In both sea level and high altitude grasshoppers, short days accelerated maturation of adults to onset of oviposition at warm temperature (33° C); there was little reproduction at 27° C. Population differences for all traits studied appear to be largely genetic with some maternal effects possible. We interpret diapause variation at low and mid altitudes to be responses to environmental uncertainty and variations in development rates to be adaptations to prevailing season lengths.