News Stories

Giant Hoppers from Hell

Central Florida has been invaded by giant 4-inch grasshoppers that are immune to pesticides and taste too bad to be eaten by predators. The Eastern lubber is yellow with red and black markings. It?s too fat to fly, but it can jump high and long. It has five eyes, viselike jaws and ever-moving mouth parts, and if you bother one, it will spread its wings and hiss at you. If you touch it, it ejects a stinky, irritating foam all over you. There are usually only a small number of lubbers around each year, due to lack of enough food and water. But the combination of a dry winter and summer rain has caused a huge increase in population.

When local museum curator Alice McKinstry Davis first saw them, she ?didn't know what to think. I'd never seen anything like them. They were devouring all our broadleaf plants."

When bug spray didn?t work, she asked for advice. "About all you can do is hit 'em with a 2-by-4," says Pris Peterson, of the Lake County Agricultural Center. So Davis recruited some high school students to go out and crush the hoppers by stomping on them. You can also grab them and drown them in a bucket of soapy water, if you don?t mind getting that stinky foam on your hands.

Grasshoppers are a good food source birds, reptiles, skunks, foxes and mice, but nothing likes to eat lubbers. Biologists think they may actually poison birds. Birds will sometimes eat them when they?re young, "But when they get older, they are too big and crunchy to be appetizing," sys urban horticulturist Linda Landrum.

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