Though many associate grasshoppers with memories of running around the backyard, trying to catch the jumping pests in their palm, not many know that grasshoppers are one of the oldest living insects on Earth.
According to a study published in the scientific journal Cladistics, scientists have uncovered evidence that grasshoppers have been evolving for more than 300 million years. With such a long history, it’s no surprise that grasshoppers have become one of the most prominent backyard pests found in the United States.
Though physical and behavioral characteristics differ between species, the majority of grasshoppers measure between 1-2 inches long and can take on a variety of colors, ranging from bright green to dark gray. However, these pests are not to be confused with their cricket counterparts; though both pests belong to the order Orthoptera, grasshoppers are larger in size and are consid ered to be a threat to backyards, while some cricket species, like the tree cricket, functions as more of a beneficial garden pest.
Of the hundreds of species of grasshoppers that threaten b ackyards, one species, in particular, can cause serious damage to crops and other vegetation. Meet: the lubber grasshopper. With its distinctive physical appearance and voracious appetite, the lubber grasshopper is certainly one pest to keep an eye on.
What Are Lubber Gra sshoppers?
What makes lubber grasshoppers particularly unique is their size. As adults, female lubber grasshoppers can grow to be 3.5 inches in length, though the average male grasshopper m easures two inches long and the average female measures three inches long. While many other species of grasshoppers appear solid gray or green in color, lubber grasshoppers can be identified by their colorful, intricately patterned bodies. In the United States, these pests typically take on a bright yellow tinge, and their bodies are frequently covered in a pattern of black lines and spots.
This coloring serves a specific purpose, too. According to researchers from the University of Florida IFAS Extension office, the bright yellow shade warns oncoming predators that their bodies cont ain toxic substances. When threatened, these creatures will spread their wings, hiss, and then “expel a fine spray of toxic chemicals for a distance of 15 cm,” which has been known to affect most vert ebrate predators of the lubber grasshopper. These forms of protection can be beneficial, seeing as how lubber grasshoppers are unable to travel far distances like other grasshoppers. Instead, these pe sts can only walk, jump short distances, and crawl up trees, which is how many homeowners in the southeastern United States, where these pests primarily live, spot a lubber grasshopper infestation. p>
The Lubber Grasshopper Life Cycle
Once you begin to spot these pests in your own backyard, you may begin to wonder: how long do lubber grasshoppers live? Researchers from the Entom ology and Nematology Department at the University of Florida note that lubber grasshoppers are long-lived, and typically reproduce a new generation each year.This long lifespan can likely be attribute d to their coloring and ability to secrete toxic chemicals, which helps deter potential predators from attacking.
Before adult lubber grasshoppers can start feeding on fresh vegetation, they must first begin as eggs. Lubber grasshopper eggs are first laid in the mid-summer months, during a period when the soil is both warm and dry. The eggs remain in this location throughout the autumn a nd winter, until they finally begin to hatch in March and April. Overall, the lubber grasshopper nymphal stage lasts for approximately 200 days. During this stage, the nymphs will feed on grass and ot her plants until they have fully developed into adults.,
As part of their development, the nymphs will then shed their exoskeletons about five times before they can fully mature into adults , which is a stage they typically reach by mid-summer. By July and August, lubber grasshoppers are at their peak. It is during these months that homeowners are most likely to see lubber grasshopper ac tivity in their yards. It is also during these months that the newly matured lubber grasshoppers begin to mate and lay eggs for the following season. Finally, in October and November, the adult lubber grasshoppers die off and the eggs enter an overwintering state that helps them survive the cold winter.
Are Lubber Grasshoppers Dangerous?
As an article published by the Univers ity of Florida notes, lubber grasshoppers are destructive defoliators. When an infestation is extreme, these creatures can “completely strip the foliage from plants” and feed on more than 100 differe nt types of plants. However, these pests usually eat irregular holes in leaves before moving onto a new plant.
Though lubber grasshoppers can be destructive to vegetation, these pests are s low-moving and are believed to be harmless to humans. Lubber grasshopper control can often be done by hand and, as the article mentions, a small net and a garbage bag are often all that is needed to h elp get rid of lubber grasshoppers in a garden.