It’s up for debate. Are they creepy creatures or the stunning work of nature? One thing is for sure, if you love your garden, Eastern Lubber grasshoppers aren’t your friends.
Here’s everything you need to know about these oversized, lumbering grasshoppers that invade Florida yards in the spring and summer:
The Eastern Lubber grasshopper is a large and destructive garden pest. Lubbers are one of the few grasshopper species that occur in such significant numbers that they can cause significant damage to citrus and vegetable crops, as well as ornamental landscape plants," according to the University of Florida.
These giants are unable to fly and are clumsy jumpers, so they take to climbing plants and trees to forage on new growth at the tips of branches.
The colors of Eastern Lubbers vary drastically as they age. The immature insects, called nymphs, look like a different species from the adults. When the young ones first emerge on plants, they are solid black with a red stripe and only about half an inch long.
The nymphs tend to congregate in groups on plants, so where there is one, there are typically several.
As these grasshoppers age and molt several times, they become black with a yellow stripe before their final yellow and brown coloring with red under their wings. Adults measure two to three inches long and have a thick body.
As much as gardeners despise them, lizards and birds don’t care for them either. When alarmed, lubbers spread their wings, hiss, and can expel a fine toxic spray that makes them unappetizing.
Shortly after the brown and yellow adults emerge, the mature females begin laying clusters of pods with 30 to 80 eggs in each. The busy females can lay egg pods every two weeks.
Eggs take about 200 days to develop and hatch from the ground in early spring.
The highest number of adult Eastern Lubbers in Florida is typically found in July and August
How the heck do you get rid of them? Gardeners that come across these robust pests know that managing them is a difficult challenge. The smaller black nymphs can be controlled by spraying an insecticide like Raid directly on them or dusting them with Diatomaceous Earth powder which is more environmentally friendly. However, as these Lubbers grow, their exterior becomes harder and more resistant to sprays and powders. The yellowish adults are incredibly hardy, so gardeners are left with the unenviable task of removing them from plants manually and putting a shoe to them or placing them in a resealable plastic bag with a cotton ball soaked in acetone (nail polish remover) to be discarded. Gardeners can also use bran bait containing corn oil and insecticide to attract and kill lubbers. However, these big grasshoppers are less likely to eat bait if there’s attractive vegetation in the area. Another option is to spray a pyrethroid insecticide directly on the mature lubbers. Other insecticides used on lubber grasshoppers with varying results include spinosad, carbaryl, permethrin, bifenthrin, and cyhalothrin.
Here’s some useless facts on Eastern Lubbers:
Lubbers bright color pattern is believed to be a warning to predators that they aren’t palatable.
These large insects are widely used in biology classes for dissection.
Male and female lubbers make noise by rubbing their wings together.
“Lubber” is derived from an old English word “lobre” which means lazy or clumsy.
Eastern lubbers are found from North Carolina to Florida, and west to central Texas.
There are two different names for the same species, a Romalea microptera (Palisot de Beauvois) and Romalea guttata (Houttuyn).
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