Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Lubber Grasshopper

Recently a friend of mine came across this beautiful eastern lubber grasshopper (Romalea microptera) measuring about 2 ½” in length. These robust, flightless grasshoppers are considered pests known to cause damage to citrus and vegetable crops and ornamental plants. Its bright colors warn predators that it is toxic and in fact they’re so toxic there have been reports of birds dying and opossums hurling chunks after eating one these things.

Shrikes though are a little smarter and have learned how to make these beefy food items palatable. Like with most food captured they impale it on an object such as a thorn, pointed branch or even a barb on a barbed wire fence. They then allow the lubber to “age”. This aging is believed to somehow lessen the potency of its toxicity allowing the shrike to eat it. And even then this smart bird only eats the head and tail leaving the thorax region where most of the toxicity is supposedly located.

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