Lubber Grasshopper (Romalea microptera)
The eastern lubber is surely the most distinctive grasshopper species in the southeastern United States. It is well known both for its size and its unique coloration. The wings offer little help with mobility for they are rarely more than half the length of the abdomen. This species is incapable of flight and can jump only short distances. The eastern lubber is quite clumsy and slow in movement and mostly travels by walking and crawling feebly over the substrate.
Lubbers have aposematic colouration: their bright colours warn predators that they are not palatable. In the wild, if approached by a predator, the lubber will display its red rear wings, which are normally kept folded beneath the front wings. If the predator is not scared off by the colour warning and comes into contact with the lubber, the lubber will secrete a foam from its thorax that creates a chemical mist around the insect. A bad odour and a hissing noise accompany this chemical mist. If that does not deter the predator, the lubber regurgitates a toxin-rich liquid made from recently-eaten plant material that contains noxious chemicals. In this way, the insect recycles the noxious chemicals it ingests to protect itself from being ingested. This regurgitate is called "tobacco spit" and can stain clothing. The loggerhead shrike is one bird that has learned to eat the lubber. It impales the grasshopper and lets it sit for a few days. The toxins dissipate leaving the grasshopper edible.
© Istvan Kadar Photography