Although Halloween has past, there are still little monsters roaming area landscapes and gardens in search for one last treat.
The eastern lubber grasshopper, Romalea microptera, is one of the most destructive insect pests around. Lubbers are an interesting species of grasshopper, and one of economic importance. They usually occur in large numbers and can devour ag crops, vegetables, citrus and ornamental landscape plants. They are mostly limited to the southeastern U.S., but have been spotted as far west as Texas. The adults can be found in a variety of vibrant colors, but most are yellow or black and all are of the same species. In northern Florida, the black form is the most common found. Adults are large and can reach 3 ½ inches in length.
There is only one generation per year, but adults and nymphs (immature stage) can be found in northern Florida from March until November. The species usually peaks in August. Female grasshoppers lay eggs in clusters, usually under the soil. The eggs are yellowish brown and elliptical in shape. The eggs are arranged in a cluster of pods. Cooler temperatures are needed for the eggs to mature. Spring temperatures are generally the catalyst for hatching events.
Again, lubbers are very destructive. They climb and dine on leaf tissue of a broad range of plants. This range includes at least 100 species of plants from 38 families. However, they do have preferences. As for bedding plants, lubbers are known to munch on amaryllis, lilies, oleander, butterfly weed, canna, Mexican petunia and lantana. Some of their favorite vegetables are peas, lettuce, kale, beans and cabbage.
So, how do you manage these pests? Early detection, by scouting your yard and garden is the first step in minimizing damage. Ultimately, capturing and physically removing the grasshoppers is the most effective control method. This can be difficult, as they typically attack in numbers. If physical removal is too laborious, a garden insecticide can be used. However, due to their large size and ability to detoxify natural toxins associated with food plants, they often prove difficult to kill, especially by spraying the plant foliage and not the grasshopper. Insecticides that will kill lubber grasshoppers include carbaryl, bifenthrin, cyhalothrin, permethrin, esfenvalerate, and spinosad (note: these are the technical names of insecticides, not the trade names; these names appear in the ‘ingredients’ section of the label). If insecticides are used, be sure to apply them according to the directions on the label of the container. Especially if insecticides are applied to food crops or near water, it is important to follow directions. Most of the insecticides listed above are toxic to fish.
For more information contact Gulf County Extension Office at 639-3200.
Information for this article was provided by UF/IFAS Entomology & Nematology Featured Creatures publication: http://entnemdept.ufl.edu/creatures/orn/lubber.htm
& the UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions publication: http://gardeningsolutions.ifas.ufl.edu/care/pests-and-diseases/pests/eastern-lubber-grasshoppers.html
UF/IFAS Extension is an Equal Opportunity Institution.