I n the past week, I have seen a couple of insects that I usually get numerous calls about. The first is the Easter lubber grasshopper. The second is the cicada killer, a large, wasp-looking insect.
The Eastern lubber grasshopper is one of the more common, colorful grasshoppers in Georgia. They sometimes occurs in large enough numbers to cause damage to plants in the andscape, but most of the time they are just a nuisance.
The Eastern lubber is a large, distinctive grasshopper. The adults are black, red and yellow, but colors vary depending on the phase of growth. Fully grown females and males are about 2½ to 4 inches long. The wings of the adult grasshopper are yellow with black dots, and are half the length of the abdomen; therefore, these grasshoppers don’t fly long distances.
Lubbers produce one generation per year, laying masses of about 50 eggs in soil excavations. In late April to early May, the female lays one to three separate masses of eggs. The eggs hatch and the insect goes through incomplete metamorphosis. Incomplete metamorphosis is where the juvenile grasshopper looks like the adult grasshopper.
These young grasshoppers will shed their exoskeleton five times before becoming adults. This process will take 15 to 20 days. Juveniles stay together around a safe food source until becoming adults. In the fall, the females insert their eggs to overwinter in the soil.
There are few natural predators of the Easter lubber grasshopper, which uses its bright color to warn predators of danger. The lubber contains toxic substances known to induce sickness or death in birds and mammals. The lubber can secrete a foamy spray from its body while hissing loudly. They can also vomit plant material to deter predators. This is known as “tobacco” spit.
Some of the insecticides that will work are malathion, cyfluthrin, and Sevin. These products will give better control on small grasshoppers. The best way to control these insects in the adult stage is with hand-picking or by stomp ing them.
Cicada killers are large, intimidating insects that can measure from 1½ to 2 inches long. They are black or brown with colorful yellow markings on the abdomen and a stinger a quarter of an inch long. Cicada killers typically fly close to the ground, and they are very fast.
They are common from mid to late summer as the adults are emerging and begin searching for cicadas. After emerging, the adult wasps will feed on flower nectar, mate, and dig burrows preparing for the next generation.
Once it is ready to reproduce, the adult female will capture a cicada and sting it. This paralyzes the cicada. The cicada killer then carries the cicada to its burrow. The wasp will lay a single egg on the paralyzed cicada, and then she seals the chamber. When the egg hatches, the larva eats the cicada.
In the spring, the larva begins to pupate and turns into an adult. The next generation of adults will crawl out of the ground and start the process over again. There is only one generation each year.
As frightening as these insects appear, they are are considered to be beneficial. These wasps will not sting unless cornered or accidentally touched or stepped on. In this case, a cicada killer’s sting can be very painful. The only places this insect can pose a real threat are where people, especially children, tend to congregate or play.
If one gets too close to a burrow, one might encounter an inquisitive male guarding the area. There is no real need to worry, for he is only bluffing and possesses no stinger. It is best to leave them alone unless they are in an area where there is a lot of traffic from people.