Stories from the Swamp Part 2
by Kelley Kirkpatrick
The eastern lubber grasshopper’s march finally comes to an end, after an impressively long-last lasting death march across the highway. Suitably named, the flightless insects appear to stumble along their way. It’s large size makes it both a poor leaper and unable to fly, so the lubber grasshopper walks where it goes; across the road. When alarmed, lubber grasshoppers stridulate (make noise) by rubbing their fore wings and hind wings together and will also hiss, spread their wings and secrete foul smelling froth from their spiracles! Their bright coloring signals to predators they are not palatable, and the toxins accumulated in their diet make it so. They can also excrete a toxic spray up to 15 cm!
Their range is limited to the southeastern region of the United States, and exist in several different color palates. Although vertebrate predators learn to avoid eating the toxic, long-lived grasshoppers, populations are kept in check by a variety of parasites including the tachinid fly, and also pathogens. They have a broad host range, and as polyphagous eaters, eat small amounts of a large variety of foliage. Lubber grasshoppers are difficult to kill or manage against, even with insecticide, but at 55 mph in a 15 passenger van with a trailer of kayaks there are a good many weeks of summer they are hard to miss.
On a side note, I’ve helped a few turtles across the road!