They are back so I have started checking my garden each night for new clusters of lubber grasshoppers (Romalea microptera). The black nymphs are found in groups on leaves or darting in clusters on the ground. They look innocent now standing in their rows on the leaves but each will grow into an adult 6-8 cm (2 – 3 inches) in length. The adults many vary in color but the ones in my yard tend to be green with yellow markings. Apparently the striking colors are a warning to predators.
Their bright color pattern is a warning to predators that the lubber contains toxic substances. Indeed, there are several records attributing the demise of individual birds to failure to exercise caution when selecting prey items. Also small mammals such as opossums have been known to vomit violently after ingesting a lubber, and to remain ill for several hours. However, shrikes are reported to catch and kill lubbers.
Luckily, not all of the nymphs survive to become adults, but even a single adult can eat through a vegetable garden or flower bed. They are nasty – even if the adults are usually found just one at a time, so I continue my nightly check for new batches. View this University of Florida IFAS site for information about controlling the lubbers.