Large, clumsy lubber grasshoppers feed voraciously on vegetable and fruit crops as well as ornamental plants, often defoliating vegetation and making plants look unsightly. Several species exist in the United States, but the most common is the eastern lubber (Romalea microptera) which lives in the southeastern and south central parts of the country. You can get rid of lubbers using various cultural, mechanical and chemical control methods.
Lubbers might look big and scary with their 2-1/2- to 3-inch long bodies and alien-like faces, but these slow-moving pests won't actually bite you. Picking them off the plant by hand, wearing gloves if you're squeamish, is the easiest and most effective way to get rid of the pests.
After you snag a lubber, you can drop the pest into a pail of soapy water or plastic garbage bag, stomp on it with your feet or smash it with a broom. Gentler souls often just carry caught lubbers to other parts of their outdoor landscapes where they can feed on weeds and other undesirable vegetation.
An adult female lubber uses the tip of her abdomen to dig small holes in the soil 1 to 2 inches deep. She lays clusters of 30 to 80 eggs inside of the hole and covers them with a frothy substance. Tilling the soil at least 3 inches deep eliminates the eggs before they hatch. Tilling also gets rid of weeds and plant debris that act as potential egg-laying sites. The bad news is that you must till from mid- to late summer to prevent egg laying, and this won't work if you're growing summer crops.
Removing weeds and cutting the grass around your garden to the lowest suggested setting makes the area unappealing to lubbers because it won't offer any food sources or protection from predators.
Lubbers like to congregate in damp locations, such as around pools, creeks or irrigation systems. Instead of waiting for the pests to attack your garden, inspect those moist areas for the pests. If you spot lubbers, mow the vegetation short to get rid of the pests in one fell swoop.
It might seem like bright-colored, slow-moving lubbers would be easy pickings for predators, but the grasshoppers actually have few natural enemies. That's because lubber bodies contain toxic substances that make birds and mammals very ill. Tachnid flies are one of the few insects that will prey on lubbers, so place some of the flies' favorite plants around your landscape to help control grasshoppers naturally. Tachnids prefer the following annual plants:
If you have too many lubbers to control through handpicking, cultural or mechanical methods, consider spraying a carbaryl-based insecticide on affected areas. Carbaryl can be sprayed on trees, shrubs and ornamental plants as well as on fruit and vegetable crops. Read and follow label instructions. One product recommends you:
- Mix 4 teaspoons of carbaryl concentrate
with every gallon of water in a handheld garden sprayer.
- Thoroughly wet down affected plants, including stems, branches and
tops and undersides of leaves.
- Repeat applications every seven days until lubbers disappear.
- Young lubbers frequently group together at night, climbing to the tips of vegetation to get away from nocturnal predators. Spraying plants at night gives you a better chance of wiping out the pests.
- Always follow the preharvest intervals listed on the product's label. The PHI is the time you must wait between spraying plants with carbaryl and harvesting the food crop.
- Keep an insecticide in the designated treatment area by spraying when no rain is expected for the following 24 hours.
- Carbaryl is toxic to aquatic life and bees, so don't spray blooming plants or near bodies of water.
- Carbaryl can irritate your skin and eyes. Wear a face mask, long sleeves, pants, goggles and shoes with socks to reduce your risk of exposure.
- (Ref 1) Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers are on the Move
- (Ref 2) Eastern Lubber Grasshopper
- (Ref 3, pg 2) Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers
- (ref 4) Dr Strangebug or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Lubbers Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/living/home-garden/article1963054.html#storylink=cpy
- (Ref 5) Grasshoppers and Their Control
- (ref 6) Eastern Lubber Grasshopper
- (Ref 7) Tachinid Flies
- (ref 8) Carbaryl Label
Carol Sarao is an entertainment and lifestyle writer whose articles have appeared in Atlantic City Weekly, The Women's Newspaper of Princeton, and New Millennium Writings. She has interviewed and reviewed many national recording acts, among them Everclear, Live, and Alice Cooper, and received her Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Warren Wilson College.