Monday, July 4, 2011

Lubber grasshoppers

Southeastern  lubber grasshoppers, click to view larger.

This year these grasshoppers seem to be popping up everywhere. Lubbers are beautifully patterned and colored tropical grasshoppers that enjoy moist areas such as marshes, swamps, ditches, and damp pine flatwoods. They live throughout Florida and range throughout the southeast United States. Stocky and sturdy, lubbers have rudimentary wings that don’t support their bodies, so they hop or walk instead of flying.

This spring I witnessed hundreds of young grasshoppers walking across a gravel road in the Fakahatchee; the small nymphs (about ¾ to 1inch long) were jet black with a yellow lateral stripe. As adults, they sport variable patterns and colors of yellow, red, and black. The bright colors can be considered nature’s warning sign; lubbers have toxins in their blood to discourage predators, and often spit digestive contents laden with the same toxins at attackers.

I read that adult lubbers in northern Florida are mostly black with yellow markings, but in southern Florida they’re mostly yellow with black and red markings. Interesting! I captured these with my camera along the boardwalk at Freedom Park so I could sketch the details without having my subject move around a lot. Even so, the closer I got, the more the wary grasshoppers moved away from me.

As I sketched these fascinating insects, I marveled at the delicate shadings of golden yellow, rose, and black on the wings and body, and how they contrasted with the armor-like exoskeleton. I drew these in my Pentalic Nature Sketch sketchbook (6 x 12 inch size) with a black Pitt Artist Pen in the XS size, and painted them with Daniel Smith watercolors.

If you’d like to read more about our lubber grasshoppers, please visit the links below.

From the University of Florida Entomology Department

And this site has everything you’ve always wanted to know about lubber grasshoppers!

If you’d like to look at more nature sketches from southwestern Florida, please visit my Flickr photostream.