The Lubber Grasshopper, An Interesting Grasshopper Species
The lubber grasshopper could best be described as a rather colorful pest. It is found mainly in the southeastern corner of the United States, but several types are found as far west as Arizona, and in the southern Plains states as well. Being quite a large grasshopper, its coloration gives it a somewhat fierce appearance. The lubber is harmless to humans however unless eaten, where their toxicity could cause a problem, although usually only small mammals are apt to be seriously affected. One familiar with grasshoppers in general might think that the lubber grasshopper, because of its size, could hop farther, fly farther and eat more than most other grasshopper species. The opposite is the case.
Clumsy And Slow - All of the types of lubber grasshoppers found in the United States are flightless, though they all have wings. The problem is, their wings are too small and too short to do any good. Neither are they particularly good at jumping, a type called the Horse lubber being an exception. Mostly they prefer to walk, which being somewhat clumsy, they really aren't very good at either. To cap it off, the lubber grasshopper is slow moving, seemingly easy pickings for any predator. As far as eating is concerned, the lubber eats less food than most grasshoppers, but a swarm of nymphs can, as a group, eat quite a bit in a short time.
Color, Foam, and Hiss - While the lubber grasshopper isn't going to outrun, or even out hop, anything that might be considered a predator, the insect does have a defense system. Its first line of defense is its coloration, a bright yellow with red or black stripes or markings. Many creatures, especially some kinds of fishes, use bright colors to warn away predators. Bright colors often say, "I taste terrible", or "If you eat me, you will die". The lubber grasshopper is in fact toxic, and probably doesn't taste good either
And, Tobacco Juice - The second line of defense might even cause us humans to move back a step. When bothered or touched, the lubber will spray a foamy substance from its abdomen, accompanied by a rather loud hiss. The foam and hiss would more than likely cause someone to drop the insect should they pick it up. The foam contains some toxic elements, not considered to be harmful to humans. Finally, the lubber grasshopper may resort to what many grasshoppers do, and regurgitate partially digested food, a substance we often refer to as tobacco juice. Though harmless, this juice can stain a nice shirt.
Lubber grasshoppers are typically from 1-1/2 inches long to 3 inches, depending upon the type. The Plains lubbers are the smallest, rarely exceeding 1-1/2 inches in length, still large for a grasshopper, while the Eastern lubbers are the largest, reaching 3 inches. Most of the other types range from 2 inches to 2-1/2 inches in length. The best jumpers are the Horse lubbers, though the Plains lubber can jump several feet. The other types seem to prefer walking. Each type of lubber grasshopper has its favorite food, ranging from citrus plant leaves, to sunflowers, to grasses. All seem especially fond of orchids, and all are opportunistic eaters, eating anything they come across if their favorite food isn't available. The male lubber grasshopper leads a pretty good life, having sex seemingly at every opportunity.
The lubber grasshopper can create some real problems in those locations where it is found. Insecticides are effective mainly against the grasshopper when in the nymph stage. To kill an adult, the insecticide must usually be applied directly to the insect. Hand picking and squashing are the usual means of eliminating the lubber grasshopper.