Plains Lubber Grasshopper

The adult Lubber grasshoppers are large for their species, and have short front wings or tegmina. They are not able to fly because of their wing size. Their hard outer shell or exoskeleton, which is made of something called chitin, protects them. It also preserves their body’s moisture, which they get from the plants they eat. Their bodies are reddish-brown in color, marked with greenish-brown.

Their wings are marked with reddish brown and black spots, they they have a row of light-colored dots on their abdomens. They have three pairs of smaller front legs used for walking. Their oversized hind legs allow them to hop or jump for long distances, from several inches to several feet at one time.

Food

The diet of the Lubber grasshopper is often varied, although its favorite plant is the common sunflower. It will also feed on various grasses, weeds, and many kinds of flowers. It can be thought of as a beneficial insect because it likes to eat plants that many gardeners often would consider as weeds. However it can also sometimes cause damage to young cotton plants, because it likes to eat them as well.

Habitat

This species of grasshopper is most commonly found on the prairies of the western part of the United States and Mexico. It prefers areas of weedy vegetation alongside roadways, in vacant lots, or field margins.

Predators

Grasshoppers have many predators. They are especially nutritious for the young nestlings and chicks of many species of birds. Also small mammals such as shrews, mice, ground squirrels, and skunks will eat grasshoppers. Many kinds of reptiles and amphibians do, as well. Even grasshopper eggs are vulnerable to other insects, such as certain kinds of beetles, flies, and parasitic wasps.

Social Structure

Lubber grasshoppers spend most of their days resting, basking in the sun, or feeding on plants. It often will spend much of its time clinging to or feeding on one particular plant, called a “host” plant. When the temperatures get hottest during the day in the summer, the grasshoppers will find shade under some vegetation if they can. During migration, the Lubber grasshoppers move from place to place by crawling, walking, and hopping. It is not known for certain how quickly or how far they travel when migrating, however.

Birth & Offspring

After mating, the female grasshoppers lay their eggs in the ground in a protective pod. This pod, which is 1 3/4 to 2 1/2 inches long, holds approximately 20-35 eggs. After incubating in the ground during the colder months, or for as long as 2 years, the eggs hatch in the late spring months of May or June. Grasshoppers begin their life cycle as wingless nymphs, which then go through five stages, or instars, of development over a period of 45 days. By late summer the nymphs have matured into adult grasshoppers, which then mate and start the whole life cycle over again.

Senses

Like other grasshoppers, the Lubber grasshopper uses its antennae to feel and smell. It has two pairs of eyes (simple and compound) to see. The tympanum, or a round membrane located on either side of its body near its hind legs, allows it to “hear” or detect sound waves. For tasting, it uses the parts of its mouth called palps. To breathe, it has spiracles, or tiny holes located all along the abdomen.

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