Monday, May 4, 2009

Lubber Grasshoppers

Romalea microptera

I found these guys today while on my lunch walk. They are young nymphs. I remember seeing the adults every day last year on my nature walks before I had a camera. This year I caught them early and hope to get photo's of thier many stages of growth.

Did you know:

The eastern lubber grasshopper is limited to the southeastern and south central portion of the United States. The northern boundary is central North Carolina west through southern Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, to Texas. It occurs throughout Florida.

The lubber is surely the most distinctive grasshopper species in the southeastern United States. It is well known both for its size and its unique coloration. The wings offer little help with mobility for they are rarely more than half the length of the abdomen. This species is incapable of flight and can jump only short distances. Mostly the lubber is quite clumsy and slow in movement and travels by walking and crawling feebly over the substrate.

Nymphs. The immature eastern lubber grasshopper differs dramatically in appearance from the adults. Nymphs (immature grasshoppers) typically are completely black with one or more distinctive yellow, orange or red stripes. The front legs and sides of the head are often red. Sometimes the nymph is brownish rer, but also displays the colorful stripes.

Adult Romalea microptera exist nearly throughout the year in Florida with their numbers dwindling during the fall and winter period. They have one generation per year, with eggs beginning to hatch in February in South Florida while the rest of the state usually doesn't see this species until March. Eastern lubbers, like all grasshoppers, grow through successive stages after molting. These stages (instars) are referred to as nymphs. Lubbers have a total of five instars before molting into the adult stage. The length of these instars vary slightly but average 15 to 20 days each. The highest number of adults can be observed during the months of July and August.

Females will begin laying eggs during the summer months. After mating, females use the tip of the abdomen to dig a small hole into a suitable patch of soil. Usually at a depth of about two inches, she will deposit up to 50 eggs contained within a light foamy froth. Each female will lay from one to three egg masses. These eggs will remain in the soil through late fall and winter and then begin hatching in March. The young grasshoppers crawl up out of the soil upon hatching and seem to congregate near suitable food sources. Lubbers are often found in damp or wet habitats, but seek drier sites for egg-laying.

If the red, yellow, and black coloration fails to keep a predator at bay, then the lubber may secrete a foamy spray from the thoracic region (the portion of the body where the legs and wings are attached.) This spray consists of a number of compounds, some of which, are irritants. This bubbly froth is accompanied by a relatively loud, frightful hissing sound. The insect contracts the abdomen to force air out of the spiracles along with the defensive secretion. The sound is produced as the spray is being forced out of these tiny holes in the thorax called spiracles. Eastern lubbers, like most all grasshoppers, can also regurgitate recently consumed plant material. This regurgitant is mostly liquid and has a dark brown color. This is commonly referred to as "tobacco spit." The tobacco spit is partially digested food material along with some semi-toxic compounds from the insect's crop region. This substance can easily stain clothing.

Did you know research from University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Thanks for stopping by,

Craig Glenn


Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Never seen one of these before.So that is not a big deal,because,honestly,I don't like any grasshoppers.

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

An extremely interesting and informative post Craig. Great shots of these nymphs.

We have something very similar here

but when they grow bigger they become a beautiful grasshopper. I thought I had posted pictures of it but see not. I will post some pics of it tomorrow.

Well done!!

Craig Glenn said...


Always a joy to have you visit! I hope I am have as successful photographing nature as you and Jake have been!


Craig Glenn said...


How is that for a Florida bug. I know it's not South Africa but you will be impressed when these guys grow up.

It has be suggest that a herd of these could actually eat a lion!


Craig Glenn

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

LOL!! Really?? LOL!! I will set my lion against your lubbers anyday. Name your date and time for the contest. LOL!! Looser buys the beers. :)

Bird Girl said...

You got some great pictures of these grasshoppers, Craig - I like them...they are quite different from ours!

Craig Glenn said...

Thanks Barb, I can't wait to watch them change and take more photo's. The are still babies.

I have a dragonfly post up now trying to ID him. Any ideas?

Craig Glenn

SAPhotographs (Joan) said...

Here I go posting something for you to see and you just ignore me. Grrr!! See if I help you with your identifications again. LOL!!

HANNIBAL said...

Very interesting post! I've never seen the nymphs! Can't wait for more!

GreenJeans said...

Ick! I ran across a boatload of these babies earlier in the year. I put them all in a ziploc bag and told my 4 yr old to hold it for me. Yeah, she squished them all. *insert evil laugh here*

Imago said...

I raise these every summer for my own enjoyment. I love them. Awesome creatures they are.