Although most Florida residents don’t think about grasshoppers too much, we do have a species here that can occasionally cause quite a bit of havoc. The eastern lubber grasshopper is found throughout the south-central United States, including Florida. It is a type of grasshopper that is not known for its jumping skills. In fact, it is a larger-sized grasshopper that usually walks slowly or crawls as opposed to hopping. When it does hop, it hops only short distances.
These grasshoppers are a mixture of yellow, orange and black with a large body and very skinny legs. The average adult is about four inches long and has five eyes! The wings are usually yellow or orange with black dots. Some of these grasshoppers are mostly yellow, while others are mostly black, and although they may look quite different in terms of coloring, they are the same species of grasshopper.
Newly laid grasshopper eggs begin to hatch in February and will continue hatching throughout March and even into April. During their growth periods, these grasshoppers will molt and change until they reach adulthood. While they are nymphs (young and immature) grasshoppers, they are usually black in color but do have a red, yellow or orange stripe down their back. During this time, they are ferocious eaters and attack any vegetation within range of their nests. Within a few months, nymphs become full-grown grasshopper, so by July or August you may be seeing larger numbers of grasshoppers than at any other time during the year.
Interestingly, the eastern lubber has a toxic substance that can make potential predators, such as the opossum and certain species of birds, violently ill should they eat one of the grasshoppers. Birds are even known to die due to the toxin in an eastern lubber dinner. Their bright colors serve as a warning for potential predators to stay away. Should you try to pick up an eastern lubber, it may very well hiss at you and secrete a smelly foam-like substance onto your hand.
Since grasshoppers, like other wild animals, tend to congregate where there is enough food, it is imperative to manage the growth of vegetation in your yard should you wish to limit the presence of grasshoppers. Keeping the grass cut can certainly make a difference. Longer grasses are attractive food, while shorter grasses are not. They also like to make their homes around sources of water, such as ponds or bird baths. If you can keep those sources of water to a minimum, you reduce your risk of grasshopper infestation.
Every once in a while, these grasshoppers breed in such large numbers that they start going after the Florida crops, such as citrus and vegetable crops. They will also harm the ornamental landscape plants and flowering plants you could have in your backyard. It is sometimes frightening to homeowners to walk out back one morning and see an infestation in their back yard.
The easiest way to get rid of the grasshoppers is during the nymph stage. Once they become adults, they are more resilient to insecticides and can sometimes only be managed by picking up the grasshoppers and drowning then individually in a bucket of soapy water or to step on them and crush them.