Eastern lubber grasshoppers Romalea Microptera (Beavois) is a giant, 3-inch, slow–moving grasshopper with a “can’t miss” bright orange, yellow and red lobster–like colors. It is native to Florida and the Southeastern Coastal Plain of the U.S.
In nature, this bright coloration is a warning to predators that they are not edible. If you happen to pick one up, it makes a loud hissing noise and secretes a foul-smelling foamy spray. Lubbers start appearing in early March or April to about October or November with the highest number of adults in July and August.
Where did they get their name lubber? Lubber is derived from an old English word “lobre” which means lazy or clumsy—which aptly describes this grasshopper.
Though lubbers have wings, they cannot fly and travel in short hops or walk/crawl through your garden. They are considered defoliators with a monstrous appetite. They will eat irregular holes in your vegetation and move on to another plant.
Jen Ferrier of the Calusa Garden Club first noticed lubbers on the Marsh Trail in early May. She was with friends and was not sure what they were. Two weeks ago, she noticed that some plants in her garden appeared to have been eaten by something. The next day she noticed a lubber had eaten the stalks and blossoms of her Swamp Spider Lilies.
When it comes to the selection from our Florida garden, lubbers enjoy broadleaf weeds and grasses, lilies, amaryllis, oleander and will make a quick meal out of your well–cared broccoli, peas, kale, beans and cabbages.
According to experts at the University of Florida, picking them off the plant by hand is the easiest and most effective way to get rid of the pests. You can drop them into a pail of soapy water or plastic garbage bag, stomp on it with your feet or smash it with a broom or a rock.
Jen Ferrier did not use pesticides but if you must spray—lubbers are used to poison in their diet. Spraying the leaves of your plants doesn’t do much harm, but this will kill other useful insects. Sue Oldershaw of the Garden Club use Raid on the tiny black babies as they ate her amaryllis.
Lubbers only natural predator is a bird, a small loggerhead shrike, but lacking the presence of a shrike in your garden, the best way is to get rid of them while they’re still in the nymph stage (baby). The nymphs are shiny black with yellow stripes and they like to cluster on one plant.
Like most grasshoppers, lubbers hatch, grow, reproduce and die in a single year after the females have deposited their eggs in the ground during the summer!
Did you know that Grasshoppers are older than the dinosaurs! They evolved over 200 million years ago, during the Triassic period. According to the University of Florida Entomology Department, there are at least 12,500 insect species in Florida.
Try to get past the lubber’s voracious appetite—they are part of Southwest Florida’s living with nature.
Calusa Garden Club of Marco Island members contribute to this monthly column to educate our Marco Island neighbors and to encourage interest in our beautiful landscape, sustainable planting, and environmentally friendly practices. If you have questions or suggestions for this column, contact Maria Lamb by posting your comments online. Calusa Garden Club is a member of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs and membership is open to those interested in horticulture, floral design and our environment. For club information visit our website: calusa.org or visit the Club’s Facebook page Calusa Garden Club.