They’re back! The Southeastern Lubber Grasshoppers are devouring Florida in 2021. This isn’t a total surprise. These grasshoppers rise up annually beginning in mid-March, almost from the ground, and devour the fresh foliage of Spring. Left unrestrained, lubber grasshoppers can seemingly eat the leaves of a shrub almost overnight.
Identifying Lubber Grasshoppers
The Southeastern Lubber Grasshopper is native to the Southeastern United States. Although they vary in color, they are typically black with yellow, red, or orange stripes on the front legs and head. These babies travel slowly and as a family in their youth, so they are easy to spot. Each will grow to an intimidating 2.5 to 3 inches in size when they reach adulthood and the exoskeleton will change to a hard-shell, yellow instead of black.
Controlling Lubber Grasshoppers
The lubbers have no direct predators, and they can be poisonous to small mammals and birds. Control is a challenge, so if you spot them in your yard, don’t delay!
Although it’s impossible to eradicate them with pesticides, the young nymph stage (newly hatched) can be controlled effectively with sprays that include carbaryl, bifenthrin, or permethrin.
Once they grow to adulthood, pesticides are ineffective and manual control is the only option. Be sure to use garden gloves when handling these grasshoppers. As a defence mechanism they secrete a foamy, dark brown liquid (commonly called tobacco spit) as a defense.
They are fairly slow moving and easy to catch. Many gardeners employ lubber-control weaponry like a brick, shoe, or broom. Squishing them appears to be the favored approach.
My father used to simply pluck them from the Oleanders in his yard and cut them in half with the garden shears. They can be killed by stomping on them, but hard-shelled adults will just get mashed into soft earth if you’re not careful. It’s also effective to knock them off a plant into a bucket that is filled with alcohol or bleach.
The Cycle of life
The females begin the reproduction period in mid-Summer so you’ll want to maintain control at least until August 1st. Breeding females lay between 100 to 300 eggs each season, mostly in moist soil. The eggs remain through winter and hatch again next spring.