While pumping gas in Arcadia late one night, I noticed something brown and leggy hop underneath my car. Trying to figure out what it was, I began glancing around me with the feeling that tiny legs were crawling over my skin.
There were more scattered across the top of the gas pump. The guts of one were smeared underneath the heel of my stiletto. And, more flattened specimens were littered around the gas station’s parking lot.
It looked like a grasshopper, but there was something mutated about its body. I immediately went searching for answers, and the best place to go for answers in this town is Luke Wilson.
Wilson, our paper’s columnist and cartoonist, is a man with a wealth of fast facts, historical tales and do-it-yourself anecdotes that could fill a few encyclopedias. I asked him what I’d seen the other night, describing it as “a very bizarre form of grasshopper” and his answer, without any type of hesitation, was “the lubber grasshopper.”
There are two types of lubber grasshoppers in Florida, according to the website for Insect Identification, a place to find out what the heck that six-legged thing is on the wall “for the casual observer,” it says.
The horse lubber grasshopper is a large specimen that will create “a noxious frothy substance” and “drop to the ground and ‘hiss’ when disturbed” in order to deter predators.
The eastern lubber grasshopper causes economic destruction throughout Florida as it consumes citrus and vegetable crops, according to the Entomology (study of insects) and Nematology (study of nematode worms) Department at University of Florida/Institute Food and Agricultural Sciences.
Both of these grasshoppers are black when they reach maturity (and while currently looking at their photos, I am brushing at my skin because it feels like something is crawling over me). However, the eastern lubber grasshopper goes through a “light color phase” where it appears an orange-brown color. They can also change into a yellow-golden color. This boy is absolutely huge in grasshopper standards with tall pointy hind legs and a very crunchy-looking body. It looks about like what I remember seeing at the gas station. Ugly in appearance by my standards, this guy also has a nasty habit of destroying crops. It makes a huge impact here in Florida.
Eastern lubber grasshopper from Google Images
According to UF/IFAS, lubber grasshoppers “can completely strip foliage from plants. More commonly, however, they will eat irregular holes in vegetation and then move on to another leaf or plant.” And because Florida is typically always warm, we may have to battle several generations at a time because there was no cold weather to kill off the older breeding adults, according to Insect Identification.
I must say Florida has some bizarre insect life. From the horror of the Palmetto bugs, now I’m faced with something that can jump through the air and appears to be the stallion of the grasshopper family. And then, it does the hissing thing like its cousin. If I ever hear a grasshopper hiss at me, that’s the day I never step out of my house again. Amazon Prime Pantry, here I come.
I had finally come to terms with the Palmetto bug that I can kill one without screaming. Now, there’s this thing. Also, while working on this column, I saw photos of the Carolina locust, the spotted camel cricket, the northern mole cricket and the tawny mole cricket, whom all live in Florida with us. I cannot even begin to describe the horrors. I think I’m just going to stay indoors after dark for awhile until I can face my fears.