Horse Lubber Grasshopper: All You Need to Know for Easy Identification and Fascinating Facts

folder_openInsecta, Orthoptera
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The Horse Lubber Grasshopper is a fascinating insect that can be found in various parts of the United States, particularly in the western region. These grasshoppers are known for their striking appearance and unique behaviors, making them an interesting focus of study for both professional and amateur entomologists alike.

Sporting vibrant colors, the Horse Lubber Grasshopper stands out among its cousins in the insect world. Their bodies are adorned with patterns that help deter predators, while their impressive size grants them the name “Horse Lubber.” This grasshopper species is worth getting to know, as they can play a significant role in the ecosystem they inhabit.

What is a Horse Lubber Grasshopper

Features and Characteristics

Horse lubber grasshopper, also known as Taeniopoda eques, is an insect belonging to the order Orthoptera. This species is among the largest grasshoppers in North America and is known for its distinct features.

  • Size: Adult horse lubber grasshoppers can grow up to 2.7 inches in length.
  • Color: Their primary colors are black and yellow, exhibiting a vibrant pattern.
  • Wings: Although they have wings, horse lubber grasshoppers are poor fliers.

In comparison to the eastern lubber grasshopper (Romalea microptera), the horse lubber grasshopper is significantly larger and has a different color pattern.

Feature Horse Lubber Grasshopper Eastern Lubber Grasshopper
Scientific Name Taeniopoda eques Romalea microptera
Size Up to 2.7 inches Around 2.4 inches
Color Black and yellow Yellow or tawny with black
Flight capability Poor fliers Poor fliers

Scientific Classification

The horse lubber grasshopper belongs to:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Arthropoda
  • Class: Insecta
  • Order: Orthoptera
  • Family: Acrididae
  • Genus: Taeniopoda
  • Species: T. eques

In conclusion, the horse lubber grasshopper is a fascinating insect with striking features. Its size and color pattern make it one of the most recognizable grasshopper species in North America.

Appearance and Physical Traits

Color Patterns

The Horse Lubber Grasshopper exhibits vibrant colors that serve as a warning to predators. Their dazzling appearance typically includes:

  • Yellow: The main body color
  • Black: Forms distinct bands on their body
  • Red: Can be present in some individuals, alongside black and yellow

This striking combination is known as aposematic coloration and acts as a signal to potential predators that the grasshopper is toxic or unpalatable.

Size and Wings

Horse Lubber Grasshoppers are relatively large compared to other grasshoppers in the Romaleidae family. A few notable features include:

  • Adult size: 2-3 inches in length
  • Longer wings than other grasshoppers
  • Wings extend beyond the end of their abdomen

Their wings not only contribute to their size but also enable them to fly, albeit short distances.

Hind Legs and Antennae

The grasshopper’s hind legs and antennae are essential components for mobility, communication, and sensing their surroundings. Key characteristics:

  • Hind legs: Powerful for jumping
  • Antennae: Long and slender, aiding in navigation

These physical traits, together with their stunning color patterns, make the Horse Lubber Grasshopper an unforgettable and fascinating creature.

Habitat and Distribution

North America

The Horse Lubber Grasshopper is found in various areas across North America, including:

  • Grasslands
  • Oak woods
  • Desert shrub ecosystems

This adaptable grasshopper has unique features depending on each region they inhabit.

Florida and Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea guttata) is native to the southeastern region of the United States, ranging from North Carolina to Florida and west to central Texas, causing significant damage to citrus, vegetable crops, and ornamental plants. They typically live in warm, moist areas with an abundance of vegetation.

Characteristics:

  • Large body size
  • Distinctive black and yellow or orange markings
  • Limited ability to fly

Chihuahuan Desert and Western Horse Lubber Grasshopper

The Western Horse Lubber Grasshopper (Taeniopoda eques) is prevalent in the Chihuahuan Desert, specifically in the Big Bend region, found in desert shrub and grassland habitats. Their distinctive features include:

  • Striking black and yellow or black and red coloration
  • Prominent wings, which are dark in color and separated by a light band
  • Ability to emit a defensive spray when threatened

Although both the Eastern and Western Horse Lubber Grasshoppers share similarities, there are key differences in their habitats and behaviors:

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper Western Horse Lubber Grasshopper
Habitat Warm, moist areas Desert shrub, grasslands
Regions Found Southeastern United States Chihuahuan Desert
Coloration Black and yellow or orange Black and yellow or black and red
Wing Pattern Largely flightless Prominent wings
Defensive Behavior Produces a foul-smelling secretion Emits a defensive spray

In conclusion, the Horse Lubber Grasshoppers, both Eastern and Western variants, display unique features according to their specific habitats and regions found in North America.

Life Cycle and Reproduction

Eggs and Hatching

Horse lubber grasshoppers begin their life cycle as eggs. Female grasshoppers lay clusters of eggs in soil. These egg clusters, called pods, typically contain 50-100 eggs each. The eggs remain dormant over winter, and then hatch in spring.

When the temperature warms up, the eggs hatch into nymphs. These little grasshoppers go through a series of molts, shedding their exoskeleton, as they grow.

Nymphs to Adults

  • Nymphs resemble small adults but without wings.
  • After hatching, they undergo five stages called instars.
  • Each instar ends with molting.

As they progress through the instars, nymphs develop their wings and become larger. After the last molt, they reach adulthood and can mate to continue the life cycle.

One Generation per Year

Horse lubber grasshoppers generally have only one generation per year. Here’s a simplified overview of their annual life cycle:

  • Spring: Eggs hatch into nymphs.
  • Summer: Nymphs grow and molt into adults.
  • Fall: Adults mate and lay eggs in soil.
  • Winter: Eggs remain dormant.

By understanding the life cycle and reproduction of the horse lubber grasshopper, we can better appreciate this fascinating insect and its role in the ecosystem.

Feeding Habits and Diet

Foliage and Vegetables

The Horse Lubber Grasshopper primarily feeds on

Behavior and Adaptations

Defense Mechanisms and Predators

Horse lubber grasshoppers have an array of defense mechanisms to deter predators. They are known for:

  • Hissing: Horse lubber grasshoppers produce a hissing sound by forcing air through their spiracles.
  • Aposematism: Their bright coloration serves as a warning signal to potential predators, indicating they are toxic or unpalatable.

Vertebrates like birds and reptiles are their main predators. These grasshoppers release a foul-smelling and toxic foam when attacked to repel their enemies.

Mobility and Flightlessness

Being flightless, the horse lubber grasshopper mainly relies on:

  • Walking: They prefer walking to hopping and move in a slow, clumsy manner.
  • Jumping: Although their jumping ability is limited due to their heavy bodies, they use it when escaping predatory threats.

These grasshoppers are often described as lazy due to their slow movement. Their short wings also contribute to their inability to fly.

Nocturnal Habits

Interestingly, horse lubber grasshoppers exhibit nocturnal habits. They remain inactive during the day and emerge during the evening. This behavior is an adaptation to avoid certain ground predators that are active in daytime.

Impact on Gardens and Agriculture

Garden Pests

Lubber grasshoppers are known to be destructive garden pests. They consume the leaf tissue of various plant species and can sometimes completely strip the foliage from plants, devastating whole gardens. A few examples of plants that lubber grasshoppers may feed on include:

  • Ornamental plants
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit trees

Insecticides and Control Methods

There are multiple insecticides available for grasshopper control. A study by the North Dakota State University tested pyrethroid and premix insecticides on adult grasshoppers in soybean fields. Here are some pros and cons of using insecticides:

Pros:

  • Can effectively control grasshopper populations
  • May prevent massive damage to crops and gardens

Cons:

  • May harm non-target beneficial insects
  • Repeated use can lead to resistance in grasshopper populations

Comparison Table

Insecticide Type Effectiveness Potential Side Effects
Pyrethroid High when properly applied Harm to non-target insects, possible resistance
Premix High when properly applied Harm to non-target insects, possible resistance

Alternative control methods include introducing natural predators, such as birds and spiders, or using barrier methods, like netting, to protect vulnerable plants. It’s important to choose the most suitable method depending on the specific conditions of your garden or agricultural field.

Reader Emails

Over the years, our website, whatsthatbug.com has received hundreds of letters and some interesting images asking us about these insects. Scroll down to have a look at some of them.

Letter 1 – Horse Lubber

 

Eastern Lubber ?
Found this big guy in the Big Bend area of Texas. Looked to be about 2+". Just beautiful !
Tom

Hi Tom,
We believe this is a different species, the Horse Lubber, Taeniopoda eques. There are many images on BugGuide.

Letter 2 – Horse Lubber

 

What the hell is this??
Location: Safford, Arizona
March 24, 2012 4:25 pm
Please help… It looks beetle-ish like and grasshopper-ish like.
There are swarms of them… And caught this one on a concrete block. Took this photo back in October.
Again, these things are nasty!
Signature: Brittney Ivie

Horse Lubber

Hi Brittney,
The Horse Lubber,
Taeniopoda eques, is a species of Grasshopper found in the arid southwest.  According to BugGuide:  “The bright lines on the head make it look from the side like a horse’s head with a bridle, and the overall effect is reminiscent of the armor, harness and other equipment on a medieval knight’s horse- which probably explains both the common and scientific names.” 

A Reader Comments
language
March 27, 2012 5:11 pm
Hi, As an educator,I have been a long time user of this website. I enjoy looking at the information myself as well as sharing this website with my students. Today I opened up the website and the first thing my students saw was a post with the following narrative, ”What the hell is this?” Seeing such language puts my use of this website in a school setting at risk. I would appreciate it if in the future you could edit inappropriate language in posts before putting them on your website.
Thank you.
Signature: Lynn Wisniewski

Automated Response:
Thank you for submitting your identification request.
Please understand that we have a very small staff that does this as a labor of love. We cannot answer all submissions (not by a long shot). But we’ll do the best we can!

I certainly do appreciate your quick response and hope that your are able to address the use of inappropriate language in posts. I don’t know if your resources allow you the opportunity to edit before putting narratives on the website.  Perhaps you could put a disclaimer at the top of the submission part of the website asking for appropriate language as children and other viewers may be offended by foul language.
Your website is awesome and my daughter who is thinking about getting her graduate degree in entymology particularly enjoys it.  Keep up the great work!
Thanks!

Thanks for your concern Lynn,
We realize that there are many young visitors to our site, and for that reason we are very careful about the use of profanity.  We do not generally edit the letters we receive and we also refrain from correcting grammar and spelling in the letters we post.  While the language you cited is definitely crass, we take even more offense to Brittney referring to the Horse Lubber as “nasty”.  Rest assured that we do monitor the content of the website, but there is always going to be someone that finds something we post offensive.  There is far more graphic, crass and offensive language on television.  We will try to be more mindful in the future.

Letter 3 – Horse Lubber

 

Subject:  Crickets or Grasshoppers
Geographic location of the bug:  Southern Arizona
Date: 03/13/2018
Time: 10:04 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  We were in southern AZ in October birding, and there were a lot of bugs about. Birding is my thing and those I can ID, but not so much bugs! These guys were all intriguing for their color, their armor, or behavior (some were eating each other). Thanks for taking a look!
How you want your letter signed:  Tina

Horse Lubber

Dear Tina,
Each of your submitted images is a different species of Orthopteran, so we will be dealing with them individually.  Your final image is of a Horse Lubber,
Taeniopoda eques, a species of Grasshopper that is pictured on BugGuide.  According to BugGuide:  “Too bulky to properly fly, though long-winged males can coast a short distance. Males make clicking sound apparently with wings. Length of wings varies greatly, with some individuals having fully developed wings that exceed the tips of the abdomen and hind femora. Some of these long-winged individuals can briefly take to the air, but not so as it can be properly called “flight”. In others the wings are much shorter, and they can be used for little more than a threat display. These insects (especially males) will not hesitate to rear up, wave their front legs, spread their wings, make hissing sounds, and even lunge toward perceived threats. This can be quite entertaining for us humans, but apparently it is an effective defensive behavior. In addition the insects’ bold coloration is believed to be aposematic in nature, an advertisement of unpalatable or toxic chemicals contained within the insects’ bodies.”

Awesome, thank you!

Letter 4 – Horse Lubber Grasshopper

 

Ultra-Hopper
Hey,
My children and I live on Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona. We found this amazing grasshopper next to our mailbox and we were hoping you could tell us more about it! It is about 3 inches long and the underside of its wings is a bright orange-red color. We enjoyed looking at all the other hoppers on your site trying to find it thank you SO much!
Yours Truly,
The Thomas Family

Hi Thomases
We wanted to get and expert opinion on your exact species of Lubber Grasshopper, so we wrote to Eric Eaton. Here is his response: “It is the Horse Lubber, Taeniopoda eques, a common species in southern Arizona, but randomly distributed in any given year. We haven’t had any in Tucson for several years. Eric “

Letter 5 – Horse Lubber Grasshopper

 

Can you identify this bug for me
I was in Bisbee, AZ for a week and saw this bug three different times. It was about, I want to say it was about three inches long. All I know is that is looked so big I had to take a photo of it. Thanks for any information you can provide.
Mary Jane Bank

Hi Mary Jane,
This beauty is called a Horse Lubber Grasshopper.

Letter 6 – Horse Lubber Grasshopper

 

Weird bug
I found this guy eating my honeysuckles and Amaryllis’. What is it?
Minniemoe

Dear Minniemoe,
This is a Horse Lubber Grasshopper, Taeniopoda eques, a species generally reported from Arizona and Texas, so if you live in Maine, this sighting is very significant. If you were one of our photo students, we would probably question why you composed your image into a horizontal shot with wasted space that produced an unnecessarily cropped subject, cutting of the lovely orange antennae and wing tips. We took the liberty of removing the excess space but sadly, we could not re-attach the compositionally amputated body parts.

Letter 7 – Horse Lubber Grasshopper

 

What the heck?
Hi,
The attached is a W.Texas grasshopper that impacted the grille of my pickup truck. What the heck is it. I hit it somewhere around Marfa/Presidio TX.
Michael Green

Hi Michael,
This gorgeous Horse Lubber Grasshopper, Taeniopoda eques, though prematurely dead, does not really belong on our unnecessary carnage page as it was a victim of involuntary insect slaughter. Thanks for sending in an awesome image.

Letter 8 – Horse Lubber Grasshopper

 

Location:  Arizona
August 14, 2011
Daniel,
Thank you sooo much for your reply. I did look on the BugGuide but being a novice at bugs did not find it. However, I still feel like spraying the air.
I did not see a picture of a HorseLubber Grasshopper anywhere, so I thought you might appreciate this. Use it or not as you see fit.
Thanks again.
K.

Horse Lubber

Hi again K,
WE are happy we could assist with the Kissing Bug ID.  We do have images of Horse Lubber Grasshoppers, however, we haven’t received a new image in several years and the reports we have are buried in our archives, but our search engine brings them up quickly.

Letter 9 – Horse Lubber Grasshopper

 

Horse Lubber (Taeniopoda eques)
Location: Cochise County, Arizona
September 17, 2011 5:32 pm
Hi, you mentioned that you hadn’t received any current images of Horse Lubbers in several years, so here are a couple of photos from September 2011
Signature: Debra Claus-Walker (mom of Sarah who posted the immature horse Lubber photo)

Horse Lubber

Hi Debra,
Thanks so much for sending us your photo for posting.  Since Sarah sent the photo of the nymphs two years ago, we have only posted one additional photo of an adult Horse Lubber, so your photo is greatly welcomed.  These are most certainly beautifully colored and marked grasshoppers.

Letter 10 – Horse Lubber Grasshoppers

 

Lots on highway near big bend texas (UNCLASSIFIED)
SIR,
what are these bugs

Thanks for letting us know that the Horse Lubber Grasshoppers, Taeniopoda eques, are making their annual appearance in the arid portions of the American Southwest.

Letter 11 – Horse Lubber Grasshoppers

 

Please identify this beautiful bug..
They have hot pink wings!
Barbara

Hi Barbara,
These are known as Horse Lubber Grasshoppers.

Letter 12 – Lubber from Mexico

 

Subject: Grasshopper in Oaxaca
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
September 27, 2013 7:55 pm
My husband found this colorful grasshopper in the garden last week. When I went to see what he was so excited about it flew to the other side of the garden and it was so pink as it flew that it looked like a butterfly to me. When he landed it was obviously not a butterfly but neither of us had ever seen such a beautiful and colorful grasshopper before. Attached are a couple pictures, I have more if you would like. We were just wondering what this beautiful creature is called. Thank you.
Signature: ML

Horse Lubber
Lubber Grasshopper from Mexico

Dear ML,
We believe this is a Horse Lubber in the genus
Taeniopoda, however we have not had any luck identifying it to the species level.  According to BugGuide, there are “Approximately 10 or 12 Central American and Mexican species, with only one found north of Mexico in the sw. United States.”  BugGuide also notes:  “Large clumsy grasshoppers, usually yellow and black in color with hind wings red bordered black and tegmina having a netted pattern of black and yellow that follows the veins. Most individuals cannot fly, but some with longest wings can apparently add some distance to their jumps, almost, but not quite taking to the air.”  The markings on your individual are somewhat different from Taeniopoda eques which is found in the southwest portion of the United States, so we suspect you have a different species.

Horse Lubber from Mexico
Lubber Grasshopper from Mexico

Update:  October 22, 2013
We received a comment from Dominik who indicated this appears to look more like a Lubber in the genus Chromacris, and we found an image on PBase and several on FlickR that are a visual match as well as the  link to Orthoptera Species File provided in the comment.

Letter 13 – Horse Lubber Nymphs

 

Newly hatched Horse Lubber Grasshopper?
Tue, Jul 7, 2009 at 4:49 PM
Hello, we just started receiving our july monsoon rains near the Mexican/NM/AZ border and saw these little brown grasshoppers near my door. Are they immature Horse Lubber Grasshoppers that will turn black and yellow later on? Mom took this photo. Thank you!
Sarah, 10
SE AZ border

Horse Lubber Nymphs
Horse Lubber Nymphs

Dear Sarah,
We concur with your identification despite BugGuide not having any images of immature Horse Lubber Grasshoppers, Taeniopoda eques. We did find a humorous quote from Eric Eaton on the All Experts Entomology page . The person who submitted the question did not provide a location for the sighting and Eric’s response was: “You don’t give me much to go on here. You don’t even state where on the planet you found this insect…..
If it was somewhere in the southeast United States, then you are most likely describing the nymph of a eastern lubber grasshopper, Romalea microptera. If in the southWEST U.S., then the nymph of a “horse lubber,” Taeniopoda eques. No, they are generally not abundant enough to do significant damage to plants. The bright colors indicate they might be poisonous to eat, but otherwise these grasshoppers are nothing more than a curiosity. “

Thank you very much. I went out two hours later the grasshoppers had turned black (they were 1cm, I collected one in a baggie and put it in the freezer for 20 minutes)! Last year I started a grasshopper survey and the Horse Lubber and Plains Lubber were the biggest grasshoppers I found.
Thank you very much for answering my question,
Sarah

Authors

  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. whatsthatbug.com is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

    View all posts
  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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Tags: Grasshopper

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