Eastern Lubber Grasshopper
Although grasshoppers may be of economic importance in Florida, some species, such as the eastern lubber grasshopper, may cause serious damage to crops and ornamentals when they occur in large numbers.
The eastern lubber grasshopper can be found in the southeastern and south central parts of the United States, including Florida. This distinctive grasshopper can be identified by its unique color (adults can range from black to yellowish depending on phase) and its large size. Eastern lubbers have wings, but they can’t fly and can only jump short distances. In fact, these grasshoppers are clumsy and slow movers as their name “lubber,” which means lazy or clumsy, suggests.
Eastern Lubber Life Cycle
Florida hosts eastern lubbers throughout the year, but their numbers decrease during the fall and winter. Lubbers have one generation a year—eggs begin to hatch in February in South Florida and around March or later in the rest of the state. Like all grasshoppers, lubbers molt and grow many times before reaching maturity; they typically have five immature stages, known as instars, before molting into their adult stage. The highest number of adults in Florida can be found during July and August.
Lubbers prefer open pine-woods and weedy areas, such as weedy fields and the weedy vegetation along roadsides. Sometimes, weedy plant species along drainage ditches within citrus groves attract lubbers, which leads these grasshoppers to feed on the crops as well. In fact, citrus is the most affected crop in the Florida. (Typically small, newly planted trees are most affected.) Lubbers have also been known to invade residential areas and eat flowering plants, such as amaryllis.
Although eastern lubber grasshoppers are large, they do less damage than smaller, more harmful grasshoppers. Lubbers can be managed, however, by depriving these grasshoppers of food, which causes them to leave or perish. Also, try keeping vegetation mowed—short vegetation usually doesn’t support grasshoppers.
Lubbers often develop in moist areas (around ponds and irrigation ditches) before migrating to homes and crops, so it’s best to check potential breeding or feeding sites before they reach you. Control them by mowing or hand-picking.
You can apply insecticides if there are too many lubbers to hand-pick. These grasshoppers aren’t easy to kill once they become large, so you will likely have to spray insecticides, such as pyrethroid insecticides, directly on lubbers.
Baits containing insecticide are often used to control grasshoppers; lubbers are attracted to bran bait containing corn oil and insecticide. Bait application will be the most effective in areas that lack competitive vegetation, as lubbers will be less likely to eat bait if there’s attractive vegetation in the area. Be sure to apply insecticides according to the directions on their labels, especially if they’re applied near crops or water.
Excerpted and adapted from:
C. W. Scherer and J. L. Capinera, “Eastern Lubber Grasshopper, Romalea microptera” (EENY006), UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department (rev. 07/2013).
“Eastern Lubber Grasshopper,” UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions (Accessed 08/2015).
Photo Credits: hakoar/iStock/Thinkstock