GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Small black insects, numbering in the thousands, are all over our county this spring. Look outside in your landscape and you will likely find these tiny baby grasshoppers on …
GREEN COVE SPRINGS – Small black insects, numbering in the thousands, are all over our county this spring. Look outside in your landscape and you will likely find these tiny baby grasshoppers on many of your shrubs and plants, chewing away. So, what can be done to control the infamous lubber grasshopper?
Learning about Lubbers
Found throughout the Southeastern United States, the Eastern Lubber Grasshopper gets its name from its slow, clumsy movements but is mostly known for its large size, colorful appearance and damage it does to landscape plants. If you ever dissected a grasshopper in biology class, it was likely a lubber.
The mature grasshopper is usually yellow, with black bands around the body but the young nymph we are seeing in the landscape now is black with some orange markings. These nymphs hatched from eggs that were laid last fall and over the spring and summer they will move through several life stages as they mature into adults, eventually laying another generation of eggs for next year.
As they grow, the lubbers will eat many different species of plants, including vegetables and landscape plants. They will feed freely on peas, lettuce, beans and cabbage but are less likely damage to tomatoes, okra, peppers and sweet corn. Within the landscape, amaryllis, crinum lilies, and other members of that family are favorites along with oleander, Mexican petunia and lantana. They also like Florida betony, stinging nettles, chamber bitter and even smooth crabgrass.
Controlling the Pest
The Eastern Lubber is notoriously hard to control, being resistant to most pesticides except at a very early stage. If they are present in the landscape, mechanical control is often the most effective and be accomplished by crushing the insects or picking them off plants and placing them in a soapy water solution. As they age, they will even become tougher as their exoskeleton thickens.
There are also several natural predators of this pest, but most are not fully understood. Some estimates show that populations could be controlled by up to 60-90 percent by parasitic tachinid flies. Most lizards, birds and mammals learn to avoid eating the grasshoppers due to their poisonous secretions. However, the loggerhead shrike, a small bird, has been known to pick up the insects and impale them on thorns and barbed wire.
If you have any horticultural, agricultural, 4-H, or family and consumer science questions, contact the University of Florida/IFAS Clay County Extension Office online at http://www.clay.ifas.ufl.edu or call by phone at (904) 284-6355.