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Library display features Antonio’s lubbers

Nine-year-old Antonio Houston's blug display is children’s areEolRoad Branch Library.  |  Submitted

Nine-year-old Antonio Houston's blug display is in the children’s area of the Eola Road Branch Library. | Submitted

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Updated: October 18, 2012 6:07AM

Mr. Lubber is dead.

But take heart, Mrs. Lubber doesn’t seem to mind at all.

Mr. and Mrs. Lubber are grasshoppers who have taken up residence in a display case at the Eola Road Branch Library for the month of September. Yes, Mr. Lubber hopped up to the great heavenly hillock a couple of weeks ago, but his caretaker, 9-year-old Antonio Houston, thought leaving him in the habitat with his conscious companion would be educational for those stopping by for a look.

“I keep setting him up,” Antonio said. “But Mrs. Lubber keeps knocking him back down.”

Antonio found Mr. and Mrs. Lubber in Florida.

His mom, Melanie, rightly noted: “Most kids want to go to Florida to see Disney World. My son wanted to look for grasshoppers.”

Antonio, who is a fourth-grader at McCarty Elementary School on Aurora’s far East Side, loves going to the Fox Valley Park District’s Red Oak Nature Center, and being an amateur entomologist, was fascinated by some large grasshoppers on display. He was told the grasshoppers were eastern lubbers from Florida.

Lucky for him, he would be attending a wedding in Kissimmee in August, so he would have the chance to search out his own lubbers.

Thing was, it was hard to find them at first, and when he did, they were on the street, smashed. But Antonio had done his homework and knew that these particular grasshoppers liked crinum lilies. So, he and his mom drove through neighborhoods looking for the lubber-harboring lilies.

They spied a lily in a gentleman’s garden. “We asked the guy if he had ever seen a lubber grasshopper, and he said ‘no,’” Antonio said.

Antonio and his mom drove away, but as they passed the man’s house on their way out of the neighborhood, they saw him waving wildly from the side of the road. He had found a lubber!

Antonio eventually found another lubber, and having a matched pair, decided that it was about time to go swimming. After all, he was on vacation.

(Note: Before packing his lubbers into his grandmother’s car for the trip to Illinois, Antonio’s mom called an entomologist to make sure it would be OK to transport them across state lines. She was assured it was.)

Antonio has been interested in insects since he was just a nymph himself.

“Basically, this is an all-my-life kind of thing,” he said. “When I was little, if my mom saw a spider, she would go, ‘eew,’ and so I started going ‘eew’ when I saw a spider. So I was copying her. Then mom changed her reputation and started saying ‘cool’ instead of ‘eew.’”

That change in word choice caused Antonio to become more interested in the “cool” creatures he saw all over the place.

“When I was in first grade, I called myself ‘The Spider Hunter’ because that’s what I wanted to be,” he said before sharing a little-known fact. “In some states, people take spiders for walks with little leashes attached to their legs,” he explained. Although Antonio “still loves spiders,” he feels they are a little overdone.

He has moved on to praying mantises and katydids, and each day, when he visits the library to feed Mrs. Lubber, he brings these new finds along in their plastic bug houses as a temporary addition to his display.

Antonio said his library insect display, which features everything from a plastic toy caterpillar to live mealworms, is a first for him.

“I had all this in my room,” he said. “If you want to have a display at the Eola Road library, all you have to do is ask.”

Just like he likes almost every kind of bug, except maybe the common fruit fly, Antonio also likes almost every sport.

“Except football,” he said. “You have to tackle people, and it hurts!”

Antonio’s display is in the children’s area of the Eola Road Branch Library.

Amy Roth is the public information manager for the Aurora Public Library.

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