Monday, April 6, 2009

ABC WEDNESDAY


So much for the best laid plans..........I had really hoped to be able to complete ABC Wednesday from A to Z without missing a week but last week I just couldn't get it done. Internet access in the desert is a rare commodity and I really didn't go on vacation to spend my whole time sitting in front of a computer. Anyway, back on track this week and I am posting L for Lubbers for my ABC Wednesday post this week.




As my regular readers will know, my job involves caring for a wide array of critters and this is just one of the many. Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers Romalea microptera are the largest grasshoppers in North America, found in the southern states, primarily Florida. Their bright colouring is a fair warning to anyone who might think they would make a tasty snack.




They are in fact toxic and so have far less predators than many other grasshoppers. One bird species that has worked out a way round their foul tasting defense is the shrike. Otherwise known as the butcher bird, the shrike impales its prey on thorns or even barbed wire fences and will build up a store in this way. By leaving the lubbers impaled for a few days the toxins in their bodies are greatly reduced and the shrike will then eat them! (Isn't nature neat?)

We keep a colony of lubbers in a large flight case. They have voracious appetites and have to be given a daily supply of lettuce, carrots, green onions and porridge oats!




Of course with all the eating they do, there is the inevitable consiquence and lubber poop-patrol is also a daily task! When they reach maturity they have only one thing on their mind (!) It is an endless pass time. When they have finally finished mating we put cups of damp sand into the cage and the females deposit their egg cluster deep into the sand.




We then put the entire cup into a sealed plastic bag with the date of collection on it and it is put away for three moths, somewhere cool and dark. At the end of the three months dozens and dozens of tiny little baby lubbers start emerging from the sand. When they are immature they are black with a yellow stripe down their back. It seems that this is when their own population control kicks in because very often when one of the immature grasshoppers is shedding the others will eat it as it emerges! - Yuck!!




All of us who work with them have a love hate relationship with these cool critters. They are high maintenance because they are so messy but they are beautiful and fascinating and provide endless entertainment for our Museum visitors.

For more postings for ABC Wednesday, check out the site.


Photo Credits - CJT

19 comments:

Sylvia K said...

Fascinating post! One of the great things about blogging is having the chance to learn things you might never have even heard about. Your photos are magnificent! Thanks so much for sharing! Have a great week and a Happy Easter!

Lene said...

Great post and marvellous details :)

Happy easter :)

gone to the dogs said...

I've always loved spiders, now I think I love lubbers too! They are beautiful. Wonderful pictures.

Babooshka said...

I missed one to this round. This is really exotic looking creature.

Joy said...

Lovely detailed photos with the toxic yellow showing through. Fascinating. Do they have porridge for breakfast:-)

photowannabe said...

This was a very fascinating post. I never knew all the information you gave. Your pictures are amazing. I love the closeups. Thanks for sharing.

Carol said...

Very interesting post. What strange behavior of these critters. Your photos are so good I feel like this guy/gal is in my living room.

PJ said...

I'm very familiar with these critters, they love to eat things in the garden and yes, they're gigantic.

Tumblewords: said...

Oh, how fascinating. You always have wonderful posts. The photos are superb and the narrative is wonderful!

Cathy said...

Great photos. Love the detail.

Becky said...

They are beautiful! Thank you for another informative and entertaining post.

Arija said...

your photos of little critters are amazing, but then again you have them at close quarters. Interesting life cycle.

ramblingwoods.com said...

Love/hate is a good way to describe it. What do you do with the little ones? Another very informative post Celeste....Michelle

Commonweeder said...

An absolutely fascinating site. I'm so glad I found your blog. My grandson loves reading about spiders, but he keeps a safe distance.

Jay said...

Oh, they are gorgeous!! Interesting that they are toxic - and fascinating about the butcher bird!

Thanks for the nature lesson - great post!

Louise said...

OMG, those are AMAZING grasshopper shots. I have more of a hate relationship with them, but they are so cool like this that I might feel a little better about them. (But even though they really, REALLY get on my nerves when they are everywhere, I could never torture them like the neighborhood boys did.)

Louise said...

Before we think I am too saintly, I might mention that what I DID do was catch them and put them in spider webs--the giant yellow and black garden spiders. Then I would watch with fascination as the spiders wrapped them up. I guess I'm not so nice.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wow! Fascinating post. I had no idea there was so much to a grasshopper. And the lubber is actually quite pretty, too.

~Lisa

Kathiesbirds said...

I think we have these or something similar in AZ. The ones we have are bright green, black and orange. Who knew they could poop so much!