Close Encounters with Toxic Grasshoppers

Eastern lubber grasshoppers (Romalea microptera) are ridiculously photogenic. A combination of huge size, bright colors, and calm behavior makes them easy to find and photograph. The common name lubber comes from the old English word “lobre” meaning lazy or clumsy. If you guessed, based on behavior and coloration, that these are poisonous animals, you are correct. They accumulate toxic chemicals from the plants they eat, which can cause puking and illness in mammals foolish enough to chomp on one. Most birds avoid them too, but apparently not shrikes. I wonder what’s going on there? If coloration doesn’t deter a predator then they will shoot toxic froth from their spiracles, tiny breathing holes in their abdomen. I handled several of them and never got frothed, I guess I wasn’t all that scary to them :)  I encourage you to read more about their natural history. These photos are from Everglades National Park:

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