LUBBER GRASSHOPPERS

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                Many visitors to the refuge in summer are repulsed or horrified by the large numbers of these colorful grasshoppers.   Their life history, abundance, large size and bright colors, and unique behaviors make them a great subject for nature photography, though.
  In "good" years, huge numbers of lubber grasshopper (Romalea microptera) nymphs begin hatching by mid-March.  From then on through fall, they can be found in abundance on vegetation along the dikes or in open areas or on trails through the hammocks.  They are black with orange, yellow, or red stripes, as are many chemically protected animals.  Consequently, they seem to be mostly avoided by predators.  If you throw them in the canals, the fish generally ignore them.

  For an hour or so after hatching and digging out from the soil where they
 incubated over the winter, the young lubbers are red or brown.  The exoskeleton
 soon "tans", however, and they acquire their characteristic warning coloration.

 

 

 

 

 

 They soon begin feeding on a variety of plants, often climbing to the tops to
  browse the newest, most succulent leaves.

         In late afternoon, feeding groups of lubber nymphs begin congregating and climb up onto the trunks of trees or whatever tall vegetation they can find.  Clusters of thousands can sometimes be found.

When fully grown, they molt into the reproductive, adult stage, and undergo a dramatic color change.  The first adults start appearing in early summer.  Males spend inordinate amounts of time getting laid.  They climb onto females and ride them around, often with some resistance by the female.  The females sometimes rock violently back and forth, apparently attempting to dislodge the male.  It's likely they are testing the strength and endurance of the males to ensure they have chosen high-quality sires for their babies. 

 

 

 

These behaviors are especially energetic when a rival male is  trying to dislodge the mounted male.   The males often vigorously flash their bright red wings and produce buzzing and popping sounds with their wings that can be heard from several meters away.  The male sometimes stay mounted on the female until she lays eggs underground, as the female above is doing.

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