Do Grasshoppers Eat Ants? Unveiling the Truth

Grasshoppers are known for their voracious appetites, consuming a variety of plant materials in their diet. However, when it comes to ants, one might wonder if these insects make up part of a grasshopper’s meal plan. In general, grasshoppers do not eat ants. Instead, they primarily feed on leaves, stems, and other plant materials, as … Read more

Do Grasshoppers Make Noise? Exploring Insect Soundscapes

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Eastern Lubber Grasshopper: Quick Guide to this Fascinating Insect

The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper is a large, distinct grasshopper species found throughout the southeastern United States, including areas from North Carolina down to Florida and west to Texas. These fascinating insects can grow up to 4 inches long and are known for their unique color patterns, which often feature a yellow or tawny base combined with black markings on their antennae, pronotum, and abdominal segments.

When they hatch, Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers are roughly 1 centimeter long and mostly black with a yellow dorsal stripe. They tend to congregate at the top of tall objects or plant stems after emerging from the soil. These grasshoppers are not just intriguing to observe but also have a significant impact on agriculture, as they can cause substantial damage to citrus, vegetable, and ornamental landscape plants due to their large numbers.

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper: Appearance and Species

Physical Characteristics

The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera) is a large and dominating insect found in the southeastern United States. The average adult size is between 2.5 to 4 inches in length, making them one of the largest grasshopper species in the region1.

Colors and Patterns

Eastern Lubber grasshoppers are known for their striking and colorful appearance. Their coloration varies from mostly yellow or tawny with black accents on the antennae, pronotum, and abdomen2. In the nymph stage, they are black with yellow stripes3.

Sexual Dimorphism

Males and females show slight differences in size and color pattern. Males are generally smaller than females, while females can have a wider range of size and weight, sometimes reaching 12 grams4.

Comparison Table:

Attribute Males Females
Size Smaller Larger
Weight Lighter Up to 12 grams
Color Pattern Yellow/tawny Yellow/tawny

Habitat and Distribution

Geographic Range

The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper is mainly found in the southeastern region of the United States1. Here’s a quick overview:

  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Florida
  • Alabama
  • Mississippi
  • Louisiana
  • Central Texas

Preferred Habitats

These grasshoppers are known to enjoy a variety of habitat types. Some favorite habitats include:

  • Pinewoods2
  • Shrubs
  • Broadleaf weeds
  • Grasses

In each of their preferred habitats, Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers are attracted to a broad range of plant hosts, where they consume irregular holes in the vegetation3.

Life Cycle and Behavior

Life Cycle

The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper has a distinct life cycle, involving the following stages:

  • Nymphs: When newly hatched, they are 1 centimeter long and almost entirely black, with a long, yellow dorsal stripe1.
  • Molting: Nymphs go through five molts, increasing in size2.
  • Adulthood: After the final molt, they reach the adult stage.

This species has one generation per year, and both nymph and adult stages have unique characteristics.

Behavior

Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers are known for their slow, clumsy movements3. They don’t fly or hop well due to their large size, making them harmless to humans but easy targets for predators.

Adaptations

These grasshoppers have developed unique adaptations to survive:

  • Antennae: They have long antennae to detect predators and environment.
  • Coloration: Young lubbers have bright stripes, while adults display bright colors, acting as a warning to predators4.
  • Chemical defense: They secrete a foamy substance to deter predators.

Their behavior and adaptations have allowed Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers to thrive in their natural habitats.

Diet and Feeding

Vegetation Preferences

The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper feeds on a variety of plants. Some examples of their preferred vegetation include:

  • Crinum
  • Amaryllis
  • Amazon Lily
  • Narcissus

In addition to these plants, they also feed on various vegetables and ornamental plants found in gardens and crops.

Impact on Gardens and Crops

Lubber grasshoppers can cause significant damage to gardens and crops due to their voracious appetites. They can consume a wide range of plants including:

  • Peas
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Beans
  • Cabbage
  • Eggplant
  • Tomato
  • Pepper
  • Celery
  • Okra
  • Fennel

Here is a comparison table of their impact on some common garden vegetables:

Vegetable Impact by Lubber Grasshopper
Peas High
Lettuce Moderate
Kale High
Beans Moderate
Cabbage Low
Eggplant Moderate
Tomato Low
Pepper Low
Celery Moderate
Okra High
Fennel Moderate

Lubber grasshoppers can be particularly problematic for vegetable gardens as they tend to hop from plant to plant, causing widespread damage.

Defense Mechanisms

Physical Adaptations

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper has a few physical adaptations to protect itself from predators. Despite having wings, Lubber Grasshoppers are actually flightless and only jump short distances. Their large bodies and bright colors provide a visual cue to predators, indicating a potential threat. Lubbers can also emit a loud hissing sound to deter predators while quickly crawling to escape.

  • Bright coloration
  • Large body size
  • Hissing sounds
  • Fast crawling

Chemical Defenses

In addition to their physical defense mechanisms, Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers also possess chemical defenses which make them unpalatable to predators. These grasshoppers produce a toxic secretion that is foul-smelling and contains chemicals that can be harmful to other animals.

  • Toxic secretion
  • Foul-smelling chemicals
  • Harmful to predators

Insecticides can be used to control Lubber Grasshopper populations. However, their unique biology may make some chemicals less effective. It is essential to choose appropriate insecticides that specifically target the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper to avoid harming other beneficial insects.

Comparison of Physical and Chemical Defenses

Physical Defenses Chemical Defenses
Bright coloration Toxic secretion
Large body size Foul-smelling chemicals
Hissing sounds Harmful to predators
Fast crawling

Control and Management

Monitoring and Prevention

Eastern lubber grasshoppers can cause significant damage to citrus, vegetable crops, and ornamental landscape plants. To prevent them from damaging your garden:

  • Regularly inspect plants for eggs and nymphs.
  • Keep lawn areas mowed to limit the grasshopper’s habitat.
  • Limit the amount of attractive vegetation in the area (source)

Chemical Treatments

Insecticides can be an effective method for controlling eastern lubber grasshoppers. Some common insecticides include:

  • Carbaryl
  • Bifenthrin
  • Permethrin

When choosing an insecticide, consider the following pros and cons:

Insecticide Pros Cons
Carbaryl Effective on nymphs and adults Can harm beneficial insects
Bifenthrin Controls spider mites as well May flare spider mite populations if not managed
Permethrin A strong and efficient chemical treatment May harm bees and other beneficial insects

(source)

Natural Predators and Biocontrol

Eastern lubber grasshoppers have few natural predators due to their unpalatable taste and bright warning colors. However, some vertebrate predators and biocontrol methods include:

  • Birds (only a few species)
  • Turtles
  • Parasitic insects
  • Pathogenic fungi

These natural predators may help manage grasshopper populations when combined with other control methods. (source)

In conclusion, a combination of monitoring, prevention, chemical treatments, and natural predators can help control eastern lubber grasshopper populations and protect your garden from damage.

Footnotes

  1. Mississippi State Extension 2 3

  2. University of Florida Entomology Dept. 2 3

  3. Nebraska Science Literacy and Outreach 2 3

  4. Mississippi State Extension 2

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 – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

 

black florida grasshopper with orange and yellow spots!!
February 5, 2010
Hi,
Last June I went on vacation in Florida (St. Augustine). While I was there I found this enormous grass hopper. It was about three inches long and very bulky. It was shiny black with orange and yellow spots running down its back, orange stripes on its belly, and orange highlights on its head and thorax. I don’t think that it was fully grown because it had stubby little wings, like those of a nymph. Also, it had no antennae, so I’m wondering it maybe a bird or something attacked it. Thanks for any I.D. you can provide.
Josh Kouri

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

Hi Josh,
There are two distinct color variations of the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper, Romalea microptera, and this black variation is one.  The other is yellow and orange with some darker markings.

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

Letter 2 – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

 

lousiana grasshopper
Sun, Apr 5, 2009 at 11:31 PM
Dear Bugman,
I worked at a volunteer camp in St. Bernard, Louisiana for a couple of years and these huge grasshoppers were always a source of wonder! When they are little, they’re half and inch long and slowly roamed around in packs of 20+.
A few weeks later, they were about four inches long and traveled solo. They are so large that they can’t even really jump! When they tried, they often landed on their sides.
In the pics, the big guy looks like he is all black, but I am pretty sure he had the red and yellow marks like the little ones do.
They really creeped out all of the out-of-town recovery volunteeers. The locals called them Devil Horses. Any idea about these grasshoppers?
Sarah
St. Bernard, LA

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper
Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

Hi Sarah,
What a delightful written account of your encounters with the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper, Romalea microptera.  This large species is distasteful to predators, which is why it has such slow lazy movements, there is no need for it to try to escape.  According to BugGuide:  “Common name lubber means “a clumsy or lazy person” (from Middle English lobre meaning lazy, or lout, related to lob ). The use for this grasshopper likely refers to their slow movements–with ample chemical defenses, this grasshopper does not need to move quickly. ”  The species has variable coloration, with one morph appearing as a bright yellow-orange form.

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper Nymphs

Letter 3 – Reticulate Lubber Grasshopper from Costa Rica

 

Subject:  Black grasshopper?
Geographic location of the bug:  Costa Rica
Date: 07/26/2019
Time: 06:49 AM EDT
Your letter to the bugman:  Hey bugman, I hope you can help find the name of this beautiful bug. I think I took the photo in February/March on the Caribbean coast, but it’s a few years back so I’m not 100% sure.
I appreciate your help!
How you want your letter signed:  David

Reticulate Lubber Grasshopper

Dear David,
We identified your Reticulate Lubber Grasshopper,
Taeniopoda reticulata, thank to iNaturalist where it states:  “These brightly colored lubber grasshoppers were observed at several areas in the region, but they were not seen in the rainforests, swamps, or along the sandy beaches, although they could be found on the periphery of these areas where grasses were likely to grow. Nymphs were never found in regions without patches of the Hymenocallis lily.”  We also located a FlickR image.

Letter 4 – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

 

eastern lubber grasshoppers
April 9, 2010
i love your site! ive taken pics of these guys sometime in ’08. i just thought u might wanna use them. i hope you like my them.
dogafin Milton, FL
Milton, FL

Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers

Dear dogafin,
We really love your photos.  We especially like the photo that shows the beautiful red underwings of the single specimen, and your other photo shows how truly large the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper can grow.

Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers

Letter 5 – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper Hatchlings

 

A few pics for you guys.
With this year being a mass hatching year for the lubbers in Florida I decided to send a few of the color forms that I am seeing this year by the thousands. …
Jim Smullins

Hi Jim,
Thanks for sending us your images of Eastern Lubber Grasshopper Hatchlings, Romalea microptera. Perhaps you will send us some images of the adults in a few months.

Letter 6 – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

 

Is this a grasshopper? If so what kind?
August 14, 2009
This was found in Selmer, TN. McNairy County. We are located approximately 75 miles east of Memphis, TN near the MS border. I never had a chance to see it actually fly. It just crawled and hopped small distances mostly. It was relatively slow and didn’t seem very frightened by us.
Ken Shreeve
35.181391, -88.708587 Selmer TN

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper
Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

Hi Ken,
This is an Eastern Lubber Grasshopper, Romalea microptera.  There is a black form and an orange form of this species.  According to BugGuide:  “
Common name lubber means “a clumsy or lazy person” (from Middle English lobre meaning lazy, or lout, related to lob). The use for this grasshopper likely refers to their slow movements–with ample chemical defenses, this grasshopper does not need to move quickly.

Letter 7 – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper Nymph

 

What is it?!
Location: Boca Raton, FL
April 3, 2011 5:22 pm
Hey bugman, my friend found this bug in his backyard. We’re from Boca Raton, FL (it’s pretty hot out here, in the 80s). We haven’t had any crazy storms down here recently but this isn’t like anything I’ve ever seen. I tried Googling but the only ones I found were the boxelder and the spittlebugs, but this one doesn’t look like them. Thanks!
Signature: Lena

Immature Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

Hi Lena,
This is an immature Eastern Lubber Grasshopper,
Romalea microptera, which you may read about on BugGuide.  We are surprised your friend only found one as they generally appear in groups.  They can get quite numerous at times.  The Eastern Lubber Grasshopper displays aposematic warning coloration as they are reported to be quite distasteful.

Letter 8 – Early Instar Eastern Lubber Grasshopper Nymphs

 


We are trying to identify these insects in our landscaping. They are about 3/4 inch long and maybe 1/4 inch wide with six legs. Some have just the yellowish stripe and others have the stripe and red rings. They mainly seem to face the same way and seem lethargic, they do not run and very easy to catch. There are hundreds of them on each plant. Thanks in any help identifying this insect that you can provide.
Sincerely
Stephen Clarke
Tampa Bay, Florida

Hi Stephen,
Thank you for getting back to us with your location. Often exact species identification depends upon a locale. These are early instar Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers, Romalea guttata. This is a highly variable species when it comes to coloration. Also, Grasshoppers are insects with incomplete metamorphosis, and the basic body shape remains unchanged through a series of molts. Each molt increases the size of the grasshopper, and also sometimes changes coloration. Often nymphs are differently colored than adults. The striping on the abdomen is very distinct in your photo, but most online images do not show this pattern. Just to be sure, we will inquire if Eric Eaton agrees with our identification.

Letter 9 – Easter Lubber Grasshoppers: Nymph and Adult

 

2 grasshoppers
Hi there, you’re website has been very helpful in narrowing down what exactly I’ve photographed. I just wanted to be sure, though. Are these pictures both Eastern Lubber? Or is the second, more colorful one a Southeastern Lubber? I took these pictures April 20th, 2007, in Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge, Delray Beach Florida. Loxahatchee is the northern-most part of the Everglades. Both of these hoppers were there by the thousands, all over the ground. We had to walk carefully to be sure we didn’t step on any.
Thanks!
Amy Brown

Hi Amy,
According to BugGuide there is only one species in the genus Romulea so “Romalea microptera Beauvois and Romalea guttata (Houttuyn) seem to be inseparable synonyms.” BugGuide also indicates: “Distinguished by huge size and vivid yellow/red coloration (adult, light phase, southern Florida). Flightless. More northern adults are darker. Juvenile (nymph) is black with yellow (or red) stripes, also distinctive.” Earlier entries on our site are based on two different species because of the two names and the Audubon Guide recognizes the Southeastern Lubber Grasshopper. You have a dark nymph and brightly colored adult of the Southern coloration pattern of the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper. Lastly, BugGuide states: “There is one generation per year. During the summer, females lay masses of about 50 eggs in soil excavations about 5 cm deep. Each female lays one to three separate masses of eggs. Eggs overwinter in the soil, with hatching in early spring. Five juvenile instars, each typically lasting 20 days, ensue. Juveniles (nymphs) tend to stick together in groups near a food source. (This probably enhances the effectiveness of their warning coloration.) Remarks Adults are flightless. Coloration is aposematic (warning), apparently this species is distasteful to vertebrate predators. When disturbed, it will spread its wings, hiss, and secrete a smelly fluid from its spiracles.”

Letter 10 – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

 

Another Eastern Lubber photo
These are rather large but are still in black phase. They were plentiful as nymphs, and now they are fewer in number, but quite large in size. They are found in all kinds of vegetation, but we have never seen them eat anything. Location: New Port Richey, FL 34654
Rgds,
Dan O’Brien

Thanks for the great photo Dan.

Letter 11 – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

 

Bug with orange stripe
Dear Bugman,
Could you plase identify this bug? I am located near Tallahassee, FL. Thanks.
Richard

Hi Richard,
Looks like it will be a bumper crop year for the Easter Lubber Grasshoppers, Romalea guttata. This is the dark form.

Devil’s Horses
(09/14/2006) Just a tidbit
L Hi:
I’m glad you had info on the Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers, Romalea guttata. My grandparents called the black variety “Devil’s Horses”, in case you didn’t know. Oops. In case it matters, I forgot to tell you, I’m from Birmingham, AL. Thanks,
Michael

Letter 12 – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

 

Louisiana swamp bug
Hello,
I was startled by the size of these when I saw them while vacationing in New Orleans this July. They were just sitting happily in the grass outside the ticket office where we took our Swamp Tour. I thought they must be some kind of grasshopper, but I’ve never seen anything so big. What are they?
Thanks very much. The web site is fascinating!
Jim Smith

Hi Jim,
These are grasshoppers, Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers, Romalea guttata. This species is usually brightly colored, but we found a posting on BugGuide with a comment by Eric Eaton, our favorite expert, regarding the unusual dark coloration.

Devil’s Horses
(09/14/2006) Just a tidbit
L Hi:
I’m glad you had info on the Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers, Romalea guttata. My grandparents called the black variety “Devil’s Horses”, in case you didn’t know. Oops. In case it matters, I forgot to tell you, I’m from Birmingham, AL. Thanks,
Michael

Letter 13 – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

 

Large colorful cricket
Sun, Nov 23, 2008 at 11:22 AM
I found this large (about 3-4 inches) cricket looking bug on my rose bush. Since then I have seen him or his friends several places around my house. Once it was even walking along the edge of my roof. I was just wondering what it was.
Curious
Denham Springs, Louisiana

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper
Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

Hi Curious,
This is an Eastern Lubber Grasshopper, Romalea microptera.  There are light and dark forms and yours is a textbook example of the light form.  You can find a matching image and information on Bugguide.

Letter 14 – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

 

a large 4″ bug
Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 5:33 PM
On July 2nd while walking in florida I came upon this creature. A sunny day, the temp was 85 degrees with high humidity. Black in color with orange and black markings. This bugs body is at least 3.5 inches long.
Larry
south of Punta Gorda, FL

Eastern Lubber Grasshopper
Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

Hi Larry,
This is an Eastern Lubber Grasshopper, Romalea microptera  or sometimes Romalea guttata.  There is a light form as well as the dark form represented by your photo.  Generally, the southern specimens are lighter, according to BugGuide.  BugGuide also has this to say:  “Adults are flightless. Coloration is aposematic (warning), apparently this species is distasteful to vertebrate predators. When disturbed, it will spread its wings, hiss, and secrete a smelly fluid from its spiracles.”

Letter 15 – Eastern Lubber Grasshopper

 

Black Bug with Red Stripe down back
April 14, 2010
I have found these bugs outside my house and I was wondering what they were and if I should be wary of them. Any ideas??
Karen
Winter Springs, FL

Eastern Lubber Nymphs

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