The Western Horse Lubber Grasshopper

I met some new neighbors during my recent stay at our off-grid cabin in Big Bend — non-human neighbors to be more precise. Recent rains contributed to an active population of Western Horse Lubber Grasshoppers. These conspicuously large grasshoppers are hard to miss.

The Horse Lubber is one of the largest grasshopper species in North America. Females are generally larger than males and can grow as long as 3.5 inches. Their habitat ranges from the Chihuahuan Desert of Big Bend and Mexico all the way to New Mexico and southern Arizona.

Horse Lubbers come by their name honestly. From the side, their head resembles a horse’s head complete with a bridle. The red coloration on the underside of their hind wings earned them the popular name Mexican General because of the similar coloring to the Mexican military uniform of old.
Their black coloration with yellow racing stripes, yellow-veined wings, and yellow or orange ringed antennae make them distinctive. This aposematic coloration serves to warn predators that they are not good to eat. This coloration and a toxic chemical secretion they exude from their abdomens are their main forms of defense.

Although they are not good to eat, Horse Lubbers love to eat. They feed on the flowers, seeds, and foliage of low-growing summer desert annuals. They are also opportunistic and cannibalistic carnivores that will eat the cadavers of other insects, including their own species.

Horse Lubbers are too bulky to fly, although males can coast short distances with their slightly longer wings. Their oversized hind-legs do enable them to cover distances up to 20 times their own length in a single jump.

Because they can’t fly and move slowly, Horse Lubbers are especially vulnerable. To avoid being eaten by nocturnal ground predators, Horse Lubbers will roost at night near the tops of desert shrubs. The following morning they descend once again to the desert floor to look for food.

I don’t have a garden at Dos Arbolitos, our little place in Big Bend, so I am not worried about having so many Horse Lubbers hanging around. In fact, I rather like their presence. They remind me that I am actually the intruder in the place they have called home far longer than me. I aim to get along with all of my neighbors — Horse Lubbers included.

4 thoughts on “The Western Horse Lubber Grasshopper

  1. Dear Sir,
    I find your stories of all of Texas, extremely invigorating and inviting. Once you occupy your off-grid cabins, what are the largest problems you face on a daily basis with critters, animals, and insects??
    Being a flatlander born and raised in Iowa, there must be challenges that become very REAL & IMMEDIATE out there in the desert.
    I’m very curious, Sir, and I just lost myself reading for almost two hours. Bless you and what you do.


    • Hi Rod,

      Thanks so much for reading. In regard to our off-grid cabin in Big Bend, we visit our property a few times a year. We are enjoying the adventure of slowly building out our cabin.

      Our property is fenced so we have not had any issues with any of the large animals that roam the area (javelina, coyote, deer, etc). The cattle panel fencing, topped by a strand of barbed wire, does the job of keeping critters out.

      When we are not at the cabin we board up all of the windows and door. To date we have not had any issues with insects inside the cabin. Although there are mice in the desert, we have not seen any activity inside the cabin. We board up the windows primarily because on rare occasions there are storms with hail and we don’t want any windows broken while we are away. We have a couple of neighbors who drive by our cabin and do visual inspections from the road.

      The biggest challenge in the desert has been the dust. Sweeping is part of our daily cabin maintenance routine. We do a thorough sweeping, mopping, and dusting before we leave the cabin so that it will be ready for our next visit.

      All things considered, we are very happy with our cabin. The magnificent views, the sunrises and sunsets, and the amazing night sky make any minor inconveniences tolerable. We are happy that we are taking the time to make the cabin comfortable and cozy because this makes each visit that much more enjoyable.

      We do have several future projects on our list, including completing the kitchen, adding our indoor shower, building a deck on the east side of the cabin to enjoy our views of Nine Point Mesa, and adding a covered outdoor cooking and seating area between the cabin and shipping container.

      Thanks again for following our adventure. I will continue to write about our ongoing projects at the cabin.

      Omar ~


  2. Horse lubbers absolutely can fly. Several years ago when we were in a big population spurt in southern AZ I saw numbers of them flying across a 2 lane highway. Granted, I never got out of the car to verify ID. But then a couple of days ago I saw one take off from the edge of our property and land just beyond the other edge. I walked up to get a good look at it, and it was indeed a western horse lubbers. That was over 60 ft, and that’s not a hop.


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