Our World: Watch where you’re walking on this golf course

Photo by Greg Kahn

Photo by GREG KAHN

Photo by Greg Kahn

There’s something special about the 16th tee at the Collier’s Reserve Country Club in North Naples. It’s not the 380 yards from tee to green, or the way it’s surrounded by lush wilderness. What makes this particular hole so special is the greeting a golfer receives from the local fauna upon walking up to the tee.

Hundreds of eastern lubber grasshoppers, Romalea guttata, make the 16th hole, and only the 16th hole, their home.

These grasshoppers, referred to by some as the clowns of the insect world, clumsily crawl around the neatly trimmed grass, on the cart path, or on the tee markers. With their bright orange coloring, it’s hard to not see them making their way to the green.

But these insects can’t fly, and it even seems like they can barely jump properly. Most of these insects are inching their way around the grass, or unsuccessfully dodging traffic on the cart path. Part of the reason the lubbers stay grounded is because their wings are rarely more than half the size of their abdomen. And since the adult lubber can reach between six to eight centimeters, they fall awkwardly after their short jumps.

The insect, now common throughout the southeastern United States and parts of eastern Texas, is found in Florida nearly year-round, especially in the Everglades. An overabundance of them.

Dave McQuade, director of golf at Collier’s Reserve, says the grasshoppers are just one of the attractions that brings golfers to the area’s first certified Audubon Cooperative Signature Sanctuary. Along with the insect, a couple area bobcats make their home in the country club’s wilderness as well as some gopher tortoises. But McQuade says what gets people talking are those bright orange grasshoppers.

“They’re beautiful,” McQuade said. He mentioned that during the summer months the eastern lubbers become more prevalent, but are still seen only crawling around the 16th hole. McQuade isn’t sure what draws them to that particular location as opposed to any other hole with vegetation, but he doesn’t see them as a nuisance.

Mike Phelan, who works at the golf pro shop, says the grasshoppers fascinate his son, Connor, 8, who can’t wait to get to the 16th hole when playing a round at the country club.

“As soon as he gets there, he picks (a grasshopper) up, puts it on his shoulder and plays the hole,” Phelan said. “He always wants to take one home, but I tell him he can’t.”

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Connect with Greg Kahn at www.naplesnews.com/staff/greg_kahn

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