Migratory locusts, Article about migratory locusts by The Free Dictionary

locust

locust,

locust,

Locust migration is an occasional event, which follows an enormous buildup of a locust population. The young locusts, called nymphs, only develop into the migratory form under certain environmental conditions, which also lead to a population increase. Not all of the environmental factors involved are known, but one is hot weather. The first generation produced after a migration is not usually migratory.

When migration occurs the locust swarms are so dense as to blacken the sky over an area of many miles. When the insects finally settle, after traveling hundreds or thousands of miles, they begin to feed, consuming enormous quantities of vegetation. Locusts are serious agricultural pests. Spraying with solutions of arsenic and overturning the soil can destroy the eggs.

Locusts are most common in Africa and Asia, but also occur in the United States. The Rocky Mountain locust, Melanopolus spretus, a species that is now apparently extinct, destroyed millions of dollars worth of crops on the Great Plains between 1874 and 1877. A single swarm contained an estimated 124 billion insects. Cicadas cicada
, large, noise-producing insect of the order Homoptera, with a stout body, a wide, blunt head, protruding eyes, and two pairs of membranous wings. The front wings, which are longer than the rear pair, extend beyond the insect’s abdomen.
. Click the link for more information. are sometimes called locusts in the United States but are related to aphids and leafhoppers, not grasshoppers.

Locusts are classified in the phylum Arthropoda Arthropoda
[Gr.,=jointed feet], largest and most diverse animal phylum. The arthropods include crustaceans, insects, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, scorpions, and the extinct trilobites.
. Click the link for more information. , class Insecta, order Orthoptera, suborder Caelifera, family Acrididae.

encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com

The Greatest Insect Swarms on Earth

There are few things in life more claustrophobic than being in the middle of an insect swarm, and some are truly astronomical in terms of the numbers of individuals that comprise them. It is believed that the act of swarming is caused by chemical signals given off when individual males seek mates. As more pheromones are released, more insects are attracted in ever increasing numbers.

An insect’s adult body is characterized by three pairs of legs and a body segmented into a head, thorax and abdomen, and usually two pairs of wings. Virtually all insects are born from an egg laid by their mother. Some of the most common and well-known insect species include flies, crickets, mosquitoes, beetles, butterflies and bees.

Many insect species swarm, as indeed do some mammals, like bats and birds, for example flamingos and starlings. Mosquito swarms vary from one species to another, depending on conditions such as lighting, winds and space available for breeding. Mosquito swarms often seem to focus on one particular place where the air is undisturbed.

Other enormous swarms may form for reasons of migration, like those of monarch butterflies in America, or of social behaviour in insects such as bees or termites as they set about setting up new colonies. The most notorious of swarming insects, in the biblical sense, is the desert locust. A locust swarm can blacken the sky for miles around, and one in Kenya in 1954 was estimated to cover more than 77 square miles.

A plague of locusts is a devastating natural disaster, feared and documented throughout history. Unfortunately, even today they can still cause misery. Locusts are related to grasshoppers and the two insects look alike, though locust behaviour is sometimes very different. They behave sometimes in the same solitary manner as grasshoppers do, but when conditions produce an abundance of green plants, and promote breeding, locusts can form thick, mobile, ravenous swarms.

Locust swarms devastate crops and cause major agricultural damage and attendant human misery like famine and starvation. They occur in many parts of the world, but today locusts are most destructive in the sustenance farming regions of Africa, the desert locust in particular. Found mainly in equatorial regions, they inhabit some 60 countries and can cover one fifth of the Earth’s land surface. Desert locust plagues may threaten the economic livelihood of one tenth of the world’s humans.

A desert locust swarm can be 1,200 square kilometres in size and pack between 40 and 80million locusts into one square kilometre. Each locust will try to eat its own weight in greenery a day, so such a swarm would eat almost 200 million kilograms of plants every day. Crop destruction on a truly monumental scale.

Like the individual animals within them, locust swarms are always in motion and can cover vast distances. In 1954, a swarm flew from northwest Africa to Great Britain. In 1988, another got all the way from West Africa to the Caribbean. These swarms are so vast they can literally block out the sunlight, and those caught within them may have trouble breathing.

When you consider that insects far outnumber humans on this planet, you might start to worry. To date, it is thought that there are 5,000 dragonfly species, 2,000 praying mantis, 20,000 grasshopper, 170,000 butterfly and moth, 120,000 fly, 82,000 true bug, 350,000 beetle, and 110,000 bee and ant species that have been discovered. Almost a million species of insect that are known of, but there could be as many as 15-30 million species still to be discovered.

Chinese couple Li Wenham and Yan Hoagie decided to get married while being swarmed by bees. They have been bee-keepers for 25 years and thought such a marriage ceremony would be appropriate. They were able to attract the bees by planting a queen bee in each of their clothing, which was followed by a mass swarming.

“It was an amazing feeling to have a carpet of living bees moving over my body. I could feel them as they moved around — it was amazing,”

I for one am not convinced that I could have stood such an invasion of my privacy by insects, however beneficial they might be! Whilst the vast majority of insects that swarm are not harmful to humans, it is nonetheless a very unpleasant experience. People report that they felt ‘somehow violated beyond belief’. Swarms viewed from a distance are breathtaking spectacles of nature, but they still make your skin crawl, even if they are ladybugs.

INFORMATION FOR THIS ARTICLE TAKEN FROM WIKIPEDIA AND OTHER ONLINE ENCYCLOPEDIAS.

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locust

locust,

locust,

Locust migration is an occasional event, which follows an enormous buildup of a locust population. The young locusts, called nymphs, only develop into the migratory form under certain environmental conditions, which also lead to a population increase. Not all of the environmental factors involved are known, but one is hot weather. The first generation produced after a migration is not usually migratory.

See also:  Mosquito Anatomy - Mosquito World

When migration occurs the locust swarms are so dense as to blacken the sky over an area of many miles. When the insects finally settle, after traveling hundreds or thousands of miles, they begin to feed, consuming enormous quantities of vegetation. Locusts are serious agricultural pests. Spraying with solutions of arsenic and overturning the soil can destroy the eggs.

Locusts are most common in Africa and Asia, but also occur in the United States. The Rocky Mountain locust, Melanopolus spretus, a species that is now apparently extinct, destroyed millions of dollars worth of crops on the Great Plains between 1874 and 1877. A single swarm contained an estimated 124 billion insects. Cicadas cicada
, large, noise-producing insect of the order Homoptera, with a stout body, a wide, blunt head, protruding eyes, and two pairs of membranous wings. The front wings, which are longer than the rear pair, extend beyond the insect’s abdomen.
. Click the link for more information. are sometimes called locusts in the United States but are related to aphids and leafhoppers, not grasshoppers.

Locusts are classified in the phylum Arthropoda Arthropoda
[Gr.,=jointed feet], largest and most diverse animal phylum. The arthropods include crustaceans, insects, centipedes, millipedes, spiders, scorpions, and the extinct trilobites.
. Click the link for more information. , class Insecta, order Orthoptera, suborder Caelifera, family Acrididae.

encyclopedia2.thefreedictionary.com

Locusts

A plague of locusts is a devastating natural disaster. These infestations have been feared and revered throughout history. Unfortunately, they still wreak havoc today.

Locusts are related to grasshoppers and the two insects look similar. However, locust behavior can be something else entirely. Locusts are sometimes solitary insects with lifestyles much like grasshoppers. But locusts have another behavioral phase called the gregarious phase. When environmental conditions produce many green plants and promote breeding, locusts can congregate into thick, mobile, ravenous swarms.

Impact on Agriculture

Locust swarms devastate crops and cause major agricultural damage and attendant human misery—famine and starvation. They occur in many parts of the world, but today locusts are most destructive in sustenance farming regions of Africa.

The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is notorious. Found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, they inhabit some 60 countries and can cover one-fifth of Earth’s land surface. Desert locust plagues may threaten the economic livelihood of one-tenth of the world’s humans.

A desert locust swarm can be 460 square miles in size and pack between 40 and 80 million locusts into less than half a square mile.

Each locust can eat its weight in plants each day, so a swarm of such size would eat 423 million pounds of plants every day.

Like the individual animals within them, locust swarms are typically in motion and can cover vast distances. In 1954, a swarm flew from northwest Africa to Great Britain. In 1988, another made the lengthy trek from West Africa to the Caribbean.

www.nationalgeographic.com

Asian locust — pest of various plant species

Locusts appeared on the planet much earlier than humans. In ancient times, these pests were called the jaws of the wind. In ancient Greece, they prayed to the gods to avoid locust invasions. And these pests were feared like a fire for a reason, today the locust is one of the most formidable enemies of agriculture.

Asiatic locust is a herd insect belonging to the subspecies of migratory locust.

This type of pest lives in Central Asia, India, Afghanistan, Siberia, Mongolia, China and North Africa.

Features of the appearance of Asian locusts

The size of the adult Asian locust ranges from 35-55 millimeters. The body color is green, sometimes it can be mixed with a yellow-gray hue.

Asian locust (Locusta migratoria).

Elytra has brown spots.

Single locust larvae are green, black or yellow. And the color of the locust larvae is orange with black dots.

Breeding Asian locusts

Females have ovipositories in the form of long tubes. Females lay eggs in the soil using these ovipositories. Asian locust females make clutches in dense reed beds. One female can lay up to 1,500 eggs. Eggs should develop in warm, moist soil. In the spring they burst, and larvae emerge from them.

5-day larvae of migratory locusts can cover distances of up to 3 km per day.

Larvae look like adult insects, but they do not have wings. In the development of the Asian locust, the pupal stage is absent, that is, the cycle is not complete. Larvae move in groups not noticeably, and after 40 days they have wings.

The life of the Asian locust is not too long — pests live 8 months — 2 years. In the tropics, the breeding process takes place throughout the year, and in temperate zones, the Asian locust breeds only in the summer.

From cultivated plants, it can severely damage cereals, including rice.

Harm caused by Asian locusts

A favorite delicacy of Asian locusts are cereals. Hordes of larvae, which are called swindlers, move quickly, they can cover distances of tens of kilometers. And adults without problems fly hundreds of kilometers per day.

At first, pests move at a speed of 6 kilometers per hour, but later it increases to 15 kilometers per hour.

Migratory locusts have the largest distribution area in the world among all locusts.

Adults can fly without rest for 12 hours. Asian locusts are doing a lot of damage to agriculture. Both adult locusts and larvae eat: wheat, rye, sugar beets, tobacco, barley, clover, beans, sorghum, peas, rice, millet, soy, beans, oats, cucumbers, corn, alfalfa, poppy seeds, hemp, potatoes, cabbage , melons, hops and shrubs.

The following methods are used to control Asian locusts: chemical, mechanical, digging and burning.

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Looking Back at the Days of the Locust

Sweeping across North America, flying hordes of Rocky Mountain locusts were once an awesome and horrifying sight, huge glittering clouds of insects laying waste countless acres of crops. Throughout the 1800’s, the whirring swarms periodically ravaged farm fields from California east to Minnesota and south to Texas.

The locusts were easy to please, eating barley, buckwheat, melons, tobacco, strawberry, spruce, apple trees — even fence posts, laundry hung out to dry and each other.

When women threw blankets over their gardens, the locusts devoured the blankets then feasted on the plants. Farmers lit fires, blasted shotguns into the swarms and scoured their fields with so-called hopperdozers, large metal scoops, smeared with tar or molasses to grab as many of the offenders as possible. But it was all to no avail.

In her book »On the Banks of Plum Creek,» Laura Ingalls Wilder recalls the horrid feeling of the huge insects clinging to her clothes, writhing and squishing beneath her bare feet and the sound of »millions of jaws biting and chewing» as the locusts destroyed her family’s wheat fields in Minnesota.

In 1875 the species formed the largest recorded locust swarm in the history of humankind, 1,800 miles long and 110 miles wide, equaling the combined area of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. Thousands of farm families threw in their shovels and gave up.

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A mere 28 years later, this seemingly indestructible enemy vanished. The last collection of a live Rocky Mountain locust was made 100 years ago, in 1902.

Now a century after the last entomologist laid hands on one of these squirming, flitting creatures, scientists say they are beginning to piece together the story of how the species may have disappeared. While still far from consensus, researchers are finding clues in places like remote glaciers and farmers’ planting records in the 1880’s.

»When it comes to extinction, we all hear about species that are taking a nose dive,» said Dr. William Chapco, evolutionary biologist at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan. »But a species that was so plentiful at one time, that is no longer with us, that’s a real mystery.»

The disappearance of the Rocky Mountain locust, also known as the Rocky Mountain grasshopper, has inspired no end of theories among scientists. (Locust, in fact, is simply a term used to describe beefy grasshoppers that gather in perilously large and hungry swarms.)

For the most part, researchers have looked to large-scale environmental changes. Some have blamed the disappearance of buffalo, suggesting that bison wallows may have been a critical habitat for the locusts. Others suggest the reduction in American Indian populations and their use of controlled fires may have led to habitat changes that brought on the locusts’ decline. But these theories do not hold up under scrutiny, said Dr. Jeffrey A. Lockwood, entomologist at the University of Wyoming, and others.

Instead Dr. Lockwood suggests the locust was more likely done in on a much smaller scale by the very farmers whom the locust caused so much misery.

»As far as I know, this is the only example of a pest insect driven extinct anywhere» in the history of agriculture, he said. And, he says, the settlers appear to have carried out this extermination entirely inadvertently.

Rather than eliminating the locusts as they intended with fires and hopperdozers, the pioneers, Dr. Lockwood theorizes, killed the locusts by transforming the land to their own tastes, land that now appears to have been the heart of the species’ breeding ground and ultimately, its Achilles’ heel.

When the locusts swarmed every 7 to 12 years or so, they covered much of the continent. Eventually, however, after each outbreak, they would retreat to a limited number of fertile river valleys scattered around the West.

Unfortunately for the locust, those same valleys were favored by farmers as well. By the 1880’s, the farming of corn, hay and wheat in the Western states showed a nearly complete overlap with areas identified as the cradles of the Rocky Mountain locust.

The settlers brought along insect-eating birds, planted new, habitat-altering plants and let their cattle stomp the ground. Pioneers also nearly eradicated beavers, a change that brought flooding that probably killed off eggs and young locusts. But perhaps most damaging was the farming itself.

»People plowed up hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of these egg masses,» destroying them, said Dr. Lockwood. »It’s just a vivid image of eggs littering the fields.»

But the locusts may have had other problems as well. Some have suggested the species was vulnerable to extinction because of a lack of genetic variation. Dr. Chapco said he and colleagues had begun DNA studies of the species in the hopes of testing that notion. But like other researchers, they have run up against what would seem an unlikely problem — a dearth of specimens of this once devastatingly abundant insect.

»There were literally billions, if not trillions of these insects, but when something is that numerous you take it for granted,» said Dr. Lockwood. »Few people bothered to collect it, and it was gone before they knew it.»

Dr. Dan Otte, a curator at the Academy of Natural Sciences, a natural history museum in Philadelphia, said the academy had what may be the world’s largest collection of the species. In total it is a trifling three trays’ worth of locusts, perhaps 100 insects in all.

In fact, as Dr. Lockwood has discovered, the largest accumulation of Rocky Mountain locusts is in no museum but in the glaciers of the frozen northern states.

Scouring remote glaciers in Montana and Wyoming, Dr. Lockwood and colleagues discovered the mummified remains of swarms of locusts that were blown down and trapped in the ice, some as long as 750 years ago. Studded with various sorts of grasshoppers, the ice masses were already known commonly by names like Grasshopper or Hopper Glacier, though what unusual hoppers they harbored had not been known.

»At the first glacier, all we found was a kind of grasshopper peat moss, rotted bodies, tangled legs,» said Dr. Lockwood. The bodies were unidentifiable. »Then we went to another grasshopper glacier, and that was our first hint that if we went to enough grasshopper glaciers we’d get lucky.»

Finally, after many long cold treks, researchers hit pay dirt. At Knife Point Glacier, in Wyoming’s Wind River mountains, they found dense pockets of the long-extinct species with dozens of intact bodies scattered on the surface of the ice.

Dr. Chapco, who has received a shipment of the preserved locusts, said he and colleagues would be working to see how much DNA they can get from these long-frozen bodies.

But while most researchers interested in the species have spent their time trying to understand how the continent’s only biblical plague-scale locust disappeared, one researcher believes they they may still be out there — alive.

»I think some people would find it far-fetched,» said Dr. Otte, »but I don’t think it’s gone.»

He said the species could easily be hiding out because grasshopper species in North America remain poorly known. Many live in areas very difficult to reach. Dr. Otte said he believed the locusts still lived in the breeding areas from which they swarmed in Idaho, around the Snake River basin and surrounding valleys. But he would not be more specific.

»I’m not going to tell you where,» he said coyly. »I’m going to go looking again this summer and I’m going to find it.»

To most people, the disappearance of this species, which has caused so much human suffering, is proof that at least some extinctions are good. Those studying the species, however, would beg to differ.

»I’m sure if you asked any farmer, he’d say ‘good riddance,’ » said Dr. Otte. But echoing other scientists, eager to study the awesome beast, he added, »I would love to find it.»

www.nytimes.com

Life Cycle of Locusts

Locusts are insects that are related closely to grasshoppers. All species of locust undergo three main life stages: egg, nymph and adult locust. Though all locusts go through the phases, the amount of time spent in each stage varies according to the specific species of locust.

Mating

The male locust locates a female locust and inserts his semen into a sperm sac located on the female locust’s abdomen. The female then releases eggs that mix with the male’s semen and become fertilized.

Female locusts lay their eggs in the ground, most commonly in hard, firm soil. The eggs are deposited into the ground in groups of approximately 50. These groups are known as «pods» and they can be deposited up to 4 inches underground. A female locust will lay anywhere between one and three egg pods at one time.

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Nymphs

The locust eggs generally hatch about two weeks after they were laid. These baby locusts are referred to as «hoppers» or «nymphs.» Over the next month to two months after hatching, the nymph locusts go through five molting stages called «instars.» After the fifth instar, the locust’s wings are fully developed.

Fledglings

After the fifth molt, the locusts are called «fledglings.» The fledglings cannot fly yet. Their bodies take approximately seven days to harden and become capable of flight. During this early stage of adult life, the locust must continually feed on vegetation in order to store up the energy necessary for reproduction and flying.

Adults

It takes approximately two weeks for the fledgling locust to reach sexual maturity. Adults often group together into swarms containing thousands of locusts. Adult locusts typically live about 10 weeks. During that time, they mate and the females lay eggs.

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What’s the Habitat of a Locust? Let Us Explore Where They Live

It is a bit difficult to determine what the habitat of a locust actually is, as the swarm of this insect species is known to travel for hundreds of miles in search of food. That being said, if the subspecies of locusts are taken into consideration, tracing their geographical range becomes a relatively easy task.

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It is a bit difficult to determine what the habitat of a locust actually is, as the swarm of this insect species is known to travel for hundreds of miles in search of food. That being said, if the subspecies of locusts are taken into consideration, tracing their geographical range becomes a relatively easy task.

Locusts are species of short-horned grasshoppers notorious for their gregarious behavior wherein they multiply rapidly and feed on vegetation – including food crops, that they come across, thus causing widespread destruction in their path. Voracious eaters that they are, locusts come in a swarm of millions and destroy standing fields before you realize what is happening. Locust plagues are by no means rare, and news about the same has been coming from different parts of the world throughout the history.

Even though such outbreaks continue even today, the occurrences are not as frequent as they have been in the past. Nevertheless, a swarm of locust is still dangerous for your farm, and one has to take necessary precautions to keep this threat at bay. That applies to Americans as much as it applies to Asians, as the habitat of locust species spans across all the continents of the world – the only exception being the continent of Antarctica.

Some Facts about Locusts

A single swarm of locust – which consists of millions of locusts, can cover hundreds of square miles with immense ease. Being migratory species, a swarm of locusts can travel across hundreds of miles within a short span of time, whilst damaging food crops and vegetation that they come across in their way. Though herbivorous in nature, locusts are also known to feed on their dead ones in times of food shortage.

A single swarm of locusts – which consists of millions of locusts, can easily weigh several metric tons; and if you take into consideration the fact that a single locust can eat as much as its body weight in a day, the damage that they can do becomes all the more obvious. Though the lifespan of a locust is just a few months, the amount of destruction they cause as a swarm, easily makes them the worst agricultural pests that you are likely to come across.

Habitat of a Locust

Basically, locusts can inhabit any warm region of the world – and that explains why we have desert locusts on one hand and tree locusts on another. As we mentioned earlier, locusts are found all over the world, and one has to take into consideration the different species of this insect to get a better understanding of its geographical range and habitat.

  • American desert locust (Schistocerca americana) is found in the deserts and arid regions of North America.
  • Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera) is found in the continent of Australia, mainly in New South Whales, Queensland, South Australia and West Australia.
  • Bombay locust (Nomadacris succincta) is widely distributed in Southwest Asia.
  • Brown locust (Locustana pardalina) is predominantly found in southern Africa, in nations like South Africa, Mozambique, etc. to be precise.
  • Desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is widely distributed in the relatively arid regions of Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
  • Italian locust (Calliptamus italicus) – which was only found in steppes of Asia at one point of time, is found across Europe and parts of North Africa today.
  • Migratory locust (Locusta migratoria) occurs throughout Africa, Asia, Australia and parts of Europe.
  • Moroccan locust (Dociostaurus maroccanus) species is widely distributed across the Mediterranean countries and Middle East.
  • Red locust (Nomadacris septemfasciata) is yet another species of locust which is found in the continent of Africa, southern Africa to be precise.
  • Spur-throated locust (Australis procera) is also found in the continent of Australia, and hence is often confused with the Australian plague locust with whom it shares its natural habitat.
  • There exist three different subspecies of tree locusts (Anacridium spp.) – the Egyptian locust (Anacridium aegyptium) native to Egypt, the Sahelian tree locust (Anacridium melanorhodon) and the Sudanese tree locust (Anacridium wernerellum) both of which are found in Africa.

Completing the list of locust subspecies is the now extinct Rocky Mountain locust (Melanoplus spretus). The habitat of this locust subspecies spanned the North American prairies at one point of time. Infestation by this locust species in the United States was at its peak between 1983 and 1987 wherein the damage caused to food crop by this species amounted to a whopping $200 million.

After 1987, there was a considerable decline in the population of Rocky Mountain locust species, which continued until it finally became extinct. Even though the concrete cause of extinction of Rocky Mountain locust is not known, experts in this field suggest that the same was triggered as a result of loss of habitat – mainly the destruction of breeding grounds as a result of digging up of river beds for irrigation purpose.

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