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.