Saturday, August 24, 2013

Florida's Giant Grasshoppers

If the softball-sized snails didn't freak you out, try this on for size: I walked out my front door today to find this giant orange-yellow-and-red monstrosity perched in a tree. We've got some mighty big grasshoppers back home in Kentucky but not like this.

Turns out it's called a Lubber, and it's actually quite common throughout the state of Florida and Georgia as well. According to Wild Florida:

This giant, slow moving grasshopper’s bright orange, yellow and red colors are a warning that it contains toxins and will make any potential predator sick. If for any reason, you fail to heed the color warning and pick it up, the grasshopper makes a loud hissing noise and secretes an irritating foul-smelling foamy spray.

These 4-inch grasshoppers are too large and toxic for most natural predators, so they don’t need to move fast. Lubbers cannot fly far, and travel in short clumsy hops, or walk and crawl slowly through the vegetation. They feed on broadleaf plants and can become a nuisance when swarms invade residential areas and feast on garden plants. Lubbers seem to be unaffected by most insecticides.

They say 4-inch, but this one was definitely a five-incher; I used a CD jewel case to measure it. And though people in residential areas are often urged to destroy the critters whenever possible because of their very active plant-munching habits, I just gave him some spare change and he went on his way.

(By the way, in Africa some species of grasshopper get as big as cats.)

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