News from the Butterfly Center: Vinegaroon gives birth to…grasshoppers??


June 19, 2008
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Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1 Momma
Vinegaroon with her eggs

We were delighted a couple of weeks ago to find that our new female vinegaroon had produced an egg sac which she was carrying under her abdomen. This was a first for the butterfly center as we have never successfully bred these arachnids.

I wanted to be prepared when the time came for her babies to hatch so I read up on my copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Baby Vinegaroons.”

I’ve been growing very anxious waiting for something to happen, and today, I was totally taken by surprise! As I was cleaning up the insect zoo, I happened to glance over at the vinegaroon display and notice a very small, black, um, thing.

As I got closer, I realized that it was a brand new baby lubber grasshopper! How odd, I definitely was not expecting that. Having one species give birth to another is certainly an unprecedented event and I expect it will be published in some scientific journal.  

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Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1
Look how tinyand adorable!

But seriously, imagine my surprise! Unfortunately, the vinegaroon’s egg sac was not viable and therefore, she ate it early this week. Her only comment was “thank god, I was starving!”

The baby lubbers were really a pick-me-up, although they showed up in a crazy place. This seems to be a trend; a female lubber will lay eggs somewhere unbeknownst to me, and they’ll pop up somewhere really weird, usually sharing space with a carnivore.

In this case, the eggs must have been laid in the potted plant decorating the vinegaroon’s display case. Luckily, these guys are tiny and go relatively unnnoticed by the resident.  

Lubber grasshoppers are the largest Orthopterans native to the United States and can be found all over the southeastern part of the country. There are several different species; these are Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers. As adults, they display bright red and yellow coloration, warning any would-be predators that they taste really yucky!

This type of coloration is known as aposematic. The name “lubber” comes from the fact that they are totally clumsy and are really not very good at moving around quickly. It’s a good thing, becuase they’re poisonous! Still, they’re always a welcome surprise around here and they are just so so cute. Welcome to the world little grasshoppers!

As far as our poor vinegaroon, well, she may not have been meant to be a mom, but don’t fret, dear public, Laurie and I are already raising 3 babies we found in Arizona last year. Check them out:

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Creative Commons License photo credit: emills1
Awwwwwww!

Erin M
Authored By Erin M Mills

As an entomologist at the Cockrell Butterfly Center, Erin designs, creates, and maintains exhibits for the Entomology Hall, raises and cares for live insects and insect relatives, and educates the public about the wonderful world of bugs.

5 responses to “News from the Butterfly Center: Vinegaroon gives birth to…grasshoppers??”

  1. Frances says:

    How adorable! Congratulations on the birth of your lubbers! It’s sad to hear the loss of the egg sac, but I’m glad it went to good use.

  2. Laurie says:

    What a cute picture of the baby vinegaroons!!!! I just love them!

  3. Steve says:

    Is there really a text titled “What to Expect When You’re Expecting Baby Vinegaroons”? If so, I need a copy … my female vinegaroon’s eggsac snagged and broke and now I am wondering about what to do with 25 little eggs!

  4. Norm says:

    Eastern Lubber Grasshoppers apparently have “distant relatives” a bit more aggressive than those mentioned. Those “baby” lubbers quickly develop into their “JR” mid-stage and shortly into adult. Living in Florida, Lubbers are a real menace. Travelling in “droves,” ranging in numbers 100 to 200, they can devour ANY GREEN-LEAF PLANT over-night. Beginning mid-May, going through July. Steady, garden and plant destruction.
    Viewing the orgin of this site, TEXAS, you haven’t been exposed to the true devastation caused by the Eastern Lubbers. To date, they have invaded 6-7 southeasten states. Should the lubber advance maintain this rate, I wonder if your lubber accolades will “lose luster.”
    I have preserved several lubbers in alcohol. Later removed to dry and created dioramas. Transforming them into “divers, skiers, computer nerds, fishing etc. My collection was featured in the Tampa (FL) Tribune/Baylife Section, Sunday, May 29th.

  5. Erin M. says:

    Thank you for the comment. I was just trying to think of something funny that captured the way I felt at the moment I found the grasshopper nymph with the vinegaroon. I’m glad you enjoyed the article!

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