On September 28th, Ken Callicott posted on Facebook about the appearance of horse lubbers in Tucson AZ — huge, incredibly showy, chemically armed grasshoppers:


Western horse lubber grasshopper, San Luis Obispo County CA

From Wikipedia:

The western horse lubber grasshopper, Taeniopoda eques, is a relatively large grasshopper species of the Romaleidae family found in the arid lower Sonoran life zone of the southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. Northern populations are identifiable by their shiny black bodies and black and yellow reticulated forewings [and red hindwings]. Some southern populations are yellow in the adult stage. The species is unique in using its black coloration to thermoregulate and in being chemically defended. The aposematic coloration warns vertebrate predators of its unpalatability and allows the grasshopper to roost conspicuously upon desert shrubs.

… T. eques was first described by Burmeister in 1838. The vernacular lubber refers to the flightless terrestrial status of the Romaleinae subfamily. [That is, lubber is short for landlubber ‘a person unfamiliar with the sea or sailing’ (NOAD2), extended to cover incompetence in the air as well as on the sea.] Eques is the Latin term for “horseman”.

… T. eques is one of the largest grasshopper species in North America. A female of the species can reach 7 centimeters long and weigh 9 grams. [The females are substantially larger than the males.]

… most T. eques cannot fly, with only approximately 10 percent of males possessing wings long enough for flight.

Aposematic? Wikipedia says:

Aposematism (from Greek ἀπό apo away, σ̑ημα sema sign [as in semantic(s)], coined by Edward Bagnall Poulton), perhaps most commonly known in the context of warning coloration, describes a family of antipredator adaptations where a warning signal is associated with the unprofitability of a prey item to potential predators. Aposematism is one form of an “advertising” signal (with many others existing, such as the bright colours of flowers which lure pollinators). The warning signal may take the form of conspicuous colours, sounds, odours or other perceivable characteristics. Aposematic signals are beneficial for both the predator and prey, both of which avoid potential harm.

A comment by Sim Aberson on Ken Callicott’s posting:

We get the Eastern lubber here [in South Florida]. Yes, very pretty. The young are black with red stripes along the body, and they hatch by the thousands. They are extremely destructive, and no insecticides kill the adults; you have to squish them, which is really disgusting.


Eastern Lubber Grasshopper pair; female (larger) is laying eggs, with male in attendance

From Wikipedia:

Romalea microptera (syn. Romalea guttata), known commonly as the eastern lubber grasshopper or just lubber grasshopper, is a grasshopper native to the southeastern and south central portion of the United States. It is the most distinctive grasshopper species within the southeastern United States, and is well known both for its size and its unique coloration. It can reach nearly 3 inches (8 cm) in size.

Etymological note. The lubber of landlubber is not some version of lover, but instead is a word, now archaic or dialectal, for

a big, clumsy person  ORIGIN late Middle English: perhaps via Old French lobeor ‘swindler, parasite’ from lober ‘deceive’ (NOAD2)

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