Photo of the Week – October 26, 2012

The plains lubber (Brachystola magna) is Nebraska’s largest grasshopper.  At about 2 1/4 inches long, and brightly colored, it’s hard to mistake for other species.  In fact, of the 108 grasshopper species in Nebraska, the plains lubber is the only one that is not in the family Acrididae.  Truly a unique individual.

The plains lubber grasshopper. The Nature Conservancy’s Niobrara Valley Preserve.

Grasshoppers tend to have a bad reputation among many farmers and ranchers because they’re seen as competitors to livestock or as damaging feeders on crops.  In truth, only a handful of grasshopper species cause any significant “damage” to agricultural crops or pastures.  You’d think that a grasshopper the size of a lubber would eat an awful lot of grass, but in fact, the lubber primarily eats the leaves of wildflowers many people would consider weeds – especially annual sunflowers, but also kochia, hoary vervain, and prickly lettuce.  Hardly a pest, if you’re a rancher, though I hear it can sometimes be hard on cotton crops down south.

Lubbers are mostly found in the western portion of Nebraska, in mixed-grass and shortgrass prairie.  Because they have very short wings, they’re unable to fly, but are sometimes seen “migrating” on foot in large numbers.

The information I used for this post came mostly from The Grasshoppers of Nebraska, by Matthew Brust, Wyatt Hoback, and Robert Wright.It’s