Coexisting with “Pesky” Bugs

I wrote this post on NextDoor the other day in response to the annual panic about our prolific Florida grasshoppers known as “lubbers,” which start getting really plentiful every year at this time. But you could as well adapt this thinking to any maligned insect or other critter that lives in your bioregion.

Well, it’s that time of year again … the time when the Lubber grasshoppers start springing forth in their large numbers! Every year, NextDoor and Facebook are full of panicky posts from people who have just moved to Florida, are seeing these critters with their voracious and wide-ranging eating habits, and are worried that the bugs won’t leave a single leaf uneaten!

For those of us who prefer a non-chemical and/or nonviolent approach to nurturing our yards, the typical mainstream advice given in response can be alarming. “Kill kill kill, squash em, spray em” type of thing.

What are some things that have worked for you? What advice have you given people?

Here are some things I’ve learned and done, and I try to put the word out (but if a person is new to Florida, never seen these creatures, and are now watching their yard get demolished, it can be hard to listen).

  • I read that Lubbers are a Florida native. So I decided not to kill them.
  • My first year in my house, the lubbers did eat a lot of plants down to bones.
  • But, most of the plants grew back.
  • Also, my native plants don’t seem to get attacked to anywhere near the same degree as the nonnatives. They still get chewed, but not as much.
  • Also, I have heard that the lubbers make a good bait for fishing.* (Someone who’s an avid fisherman told me that the other day, that he has had great success with them as bait.)

Anyone else got any advice about coexisting peacefully with these prolific and ravenous yard-babies? Or dealing with them in a non-chemical manner?

*Another person pointed out that using the lubbers as fishing-bait isn’t nonviolent. I said that’s true, but that instead of killing the bugs for no reason, the guy was using them to catch his dinner so I thought that was OK.

(Postscript: After I made my post on NextDoor (and later, on Facebook), I was afraid that all the “kill kill kill spray spray spray” people were going to pile all over me. But instead, a lot of people who take a “live & let live” approach chimed in. Takeaway: When we speak up on behalf of nature, we empower others who are similarly minded to speak up also. And suddenly the mainstream voices don’t feel like such an overwhelming majority.)

Part 2: In response to my comment, a person on NextDoor asked, “Do you have this same ‘let the poor creatures live’ philosophy with all? Rats, mice, no-see-ums, mosquitoes, roaches and fleas.”

My response to him:

In general, I do my best not to kill stuff. Obviously we all kill things in order to feed ourselves. (Especially omnivores, which I am.) Also, we are all probably constantly stepping on bugs or other critters without intending to. It is what it is.

If rats are outside, I think of them as food for owls, eagles, snakes, etc. Everything is food for something.

If a flea or mosquito gets into my house (which once in a while one does), and bites me (which is how I find out it is in the house), I don’t feel too guilty about killing it. Especially fleas, because I don’t want them multiplying inside my house. (Mosquitoes don’t really have a good way to multiply in my house because I’m careful to not let water sit around.)

Outdoors, they are food for dragonflies, lizards, etc.

I react pretty badly to flea bites and mosquito bites (noseeums also), but I have learned the major ways to avoid getting bitten and I try to follow those. Long-sleeved light-colored clothes when sitting outdoors at dusk etc.

I do my best to manage the ecosystem of my yard so things stay in balance. In general, critters very very rarely get into my house. Their food is outdoors, and my house is pretty tight against critters who’d want to come in.

Palmetto bugs: they get in my house once in a while. My preferred approach is to catch them in a jar and put them outside. Not just because I care about creatures, but also because I would rather take a bug outside than squash it in my house and have a giant mess to clean up.

Rats, I understand that if people get a rat problem, they might need to call an exterminator. Same with bedbugs, termites — I’m not judging people if they need to take action when a creature we think of as a “pest” gets out of hand and it might be dangerous.

One time, a rat got into my house. It was pretty little when it first got in. I tried for months to catch it and put it outside. I was afraid it might attract a mate and then they’d have babies in my house etc. I ended up putting out poison and that killed it. I felt awful. If that happens again I will try to find a better solution. Worst-case scenario, the poisoned rat while still alive could have gotten outside, where an owl or something could have been poisoned by eating it.

Pardon this longwinded reply but I sense that your question was sincere and not just “baiting” me. (Fishing pun unintended – I see your fisherman slogan there 🙂 ).

BTW speaking of fish, once I learned that many of the chemicals we spray find their way into rivers, ocean, and other bodies of water, I became even more committed to avoiding chemicals to the best of my ability.

BTW i do not think of any creatures as “poor creatures.” I have respect for all of God’s creatures, even the ones I prefer not to have in my house!! In my field, permaculture design, one of the first things we learn is that every single living thing plays a role in ecosystem health.