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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Desert locust, Schistocerca gregaria
Male (on top) and female
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Arthropoda
Superclass: Hexapoda
Class: Insecta
Order: Orthoptera
Family: Acrididae
Subfamily: Cyrtacanthacridinae


Locust is the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae. The origin and apparent extinction of certain species of locust—some of which reached 6 inches (15 cm) in length—are unclear.[1]

These are species that can breed rapidly under suitable conditions and subsequently become gregarious and migratory. They form bands as nymphs and swarms as adults—both of which can travel great distances, rapidly stripping fields and greatly damaging crops.


Locust species

Though the female and the male look alike, they can be distinguished by looking at the end of their abdomen. The male has a boat-shaped tip while the female has two serrated valves that can be either apart or kept together. These valves aid in the digging of the hole in which an egg pod is deposited. Desert locusts can measure roughly 75mm (3 inches) in length.

In addition, a number of "grasshopper" species such as the Senegalese grasshopper Oedaleus senegalensis, and the rice grasshopper Hieroglyphus daganensis (both from the Sahel), often display locust-like behaviour and change morphologically on crowding.

Swarming behaviour and extinctions

Locust from the 1915 Locust Plague

There is no taxonomic difference between locust and grasshopper species, and in English the term "locust" is used for grasshopper species that change morphologically and behaviourally on crowding, to form swarms or hopper bands (of immature stages). These changes, or phase polymorphism, were first identified by Sir Boris Petrovich Uvarov, who studied the desert locust: whose solitary and gregarious phases had previously been thought of as separate species. Charles Valentine Riley, Norman Criddle were also involved in the understanding and destructive control of locusts. Research at Oxford University has identified that swarming behaviour is a response to overcrowding. Increased tactile stimulation of the hind legs causes an increase in levels of serotonin.[2] This causes the locust to change color, eat much more, and breed much more easily. The transformation of the locust to the swarming variety is induced by several contacts per minute over a four-hour period.[3] It is estimated that the largest swarms have covered hundreds of square miles and consisted of many billions of locusts.

The extinction of the Rocky Mountain locust has been a source of puzzlement. Recent research suggests that the breeding grounds of this insect in the valleys of the Rocky Mountains came under sustained agricultural development during the large influx of gold miners,[1] destroying the underground eggs of the locust.[4][5]

In a paper in the 30 January 2009 edition of the AAAS magazine Science, Anstey & Rogers et al. showed that when desert locusts meet up, their nervous systems release serotonin, which causes them to become mutually attracted, a prerequisite for swarming.[6][7]

Locusts as experimental models

Locusts are used as models in many fields of biology, especially in the field of olfactory, visual and locomotor neurophysiology. It is one of the organisms for which scientists have obtained detailed data on information processing in the olfactory pathway of organisms. It is suitable for the above purposes because of the robustness of the preparation for electrophysiological experiments and ease of growing them.

The International LUBILOSA Programme was set up in order to find methods of non-chemical control of locusts. Not only did it successfully develop the mycoinsecticide 'Green Muscle', but over its 12 year period, Programme staff also contributed a large number of scientific papers on subjects as diverse as fungal production, (bio)pesticide application, socio-economics and thermal ecology. Locusts thus provided a valuable "test bed" for better biological understanding and developing new technologies for microbial pesticides.

Locusts in literature and film

One of the Plagues of Egypt in the Bible was a swarm of locusts, which ate all the crops of Egypt.

The locusts were one of the antagonists in the Bone series.


In her novel On the Banks of Plum Creek, Laura Ingalls Wilder writes of a "glittering cloud" of locusts so large it blocked out the sun as it approached. The swarm descended upon her family's farm near Walnut Grove, Minnesota, destroying a month's wheat crop and stripping the prairie bare of all vegetation.

In the film "Exorcist II: The Heretic", the demon Pazuzu (The Exorcist) appears near the climax as a swarm of locusts, the symbolism implying that both are considered an omen of evil and are destructive.

Doris Lessing, the English writer who won the Nobel Prize for Literature for the year 2007, vividly described a locust attack in her short story titled "A Mild Attack of Locusts". The story, published in the February 26, 1955 issue of The New Yorker, is set in the South African countryside and describes how a family of farmers attempts to resist the attack, to prevent and minimize the damage and to come to terms with the loss of crops.

Chinua Achebe has a swarm of locusts as a gleefully-received human food source in his 1958 novel Things Fall Apart.

In Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, the cow herd experiences being in the path of a swarm of locusts whose passage lasts several hours and which strips the prairie grass around them down to the nub, and even chews on the cowboys' clothing.

The 1978 film Days of Heaven depicts a swarm of locusts ravaging wheat fields of the Texas Panhandle, and the efforts of farmhands to eradicate the infestation.

In the graphic novel "Bone," the main villain is called The Lord of the Locusts because a giant swarm of locusts make up its living matter.

The 1937 film The Good Earth, set in China, features a massive locust swarm for its climax.

The Day of the Locust with biblical to the Plagues of Egypt.

The 1999 film The Mummy, set largely in Egypt, reviewed some of the plagues of Egypt including locusts.

The 2005 short story collection 20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill contained "You Will Hear the Locust Sing". 18-year-old Francis wakes up one morning to find himself transformed into a locust.

Related uses of the word "locust"

The word "locust" is derived from the Vulgar Latin locusta, which was originally used to refer to various types of crustaceans and insects; English "lobster" is derived from Anglo-Saxon loppestre, which may come from Latin locusta.[8] [1] Spanish has mostly preserved the original Latin usage, since the cognate term langosta can be used to refer both to a variety of lobster-like crustaceans and to the swarming grasshopper, while semantic confusion is avoided by employing qualifiers such as de tierra (of the land) when referring to grasshoppers, de mar and del rio (of the sea/of the river) when referring to lobsters and crayfish respectively.[9][10] French presents an inverse case; during the 16th century, the word sauterelle (literally "little hopper") could mean either grasshopper or lobster (sauterelle de mer).[11] In contemporary French usage, langouste is used almost exclusively to refer to the crustacean (two insect exceptions being the langouste de désert and the langouste de Provence).[12][13] In certain regional varieties of English, "locust" can refer to the large swarming grasshopper, the cicada (which may also swarm), and rarely to the praying mantis ("praying locust").[14]

The use of "locust" in English as a synonym for "lobster" has no grounding in anglophone tradition, and most modern instances of its use are usually calques of foreign expressions (e.g. "sea locust" as mistranslation of langouste de mer).[15] There are, however, various species of crustaceans whose regional names include the word "locust." Thenus orientalis, for example, is sometimes referred to as the Flathead locust lobster (its French name, Cigale raquette, literally "raquet cicada," is yet another instance of the locust-cicada-lobster nomenclatural connection).[16] Similarly, certain types of amphibians and birds are sometimes called "false locusts" in imitation of the Greek pseud(o)acris, a scientific name sometimes given to a species because of its perceived cricket-like chirping.[17] Often the linguistic non-differentiation of animals that not only are regarded by science as different species, but that often exist in radically different environments, is the result of culturally perceived similarities between organisms, as well as of abstract associations formed within a particular group's mythology and folklore (see Cicada mythology). On a linguistic level, these cases also exemplify an extensively documented tendency, in many languages, towards conservatism and economy in neologization, with some languages historically only allowing for the expansion of meaning within already existing word-forms.[18] Also of note is the fact that all three so-called locusts (the grasshopper, the cicada, and the lobster) have been a traditional source of food for various peoples around the world (see entomophagy).

The word "locust" has, at times, been employed controversially in English translations of Ancient Greek and Latin natural histories, as well as of Hebrew and Greek Bibles; such ambiguous renderings prompted the 17th-century polymath Thomas Browne to include in the Fifth Book of his Pseudodoxia Epidemica an essay entitled Of the Picture of a Grasshopper, it begins:

There is also among us a common description and picture of a Grashopper, as may be observed in the pictures of Emblematists, in the coats of several families, and as the word Cicada is usually translated in Dictionaries. Wherein to speak strictly, if by this word Grashopper, we understand that animal which is implied by τέτιξ with the Greeks, and by Cicada with the Latines; we may with safety affirm the picture is widely mistaken, and that for ought enquiry can inform, there is no such insect in England.[19]

Browne revisited the controversy in his Miscellany Tracts (1684), wherein he takes pains (even citing Aristotle's Animalia) to both indicate the relationship of locusts to grasshoppers and to affirm their like disparateness from cicadas:

That which we commonly call a Grashopper, and the French Saulterelle being one kind of Locust, so rendered in the plague of Ægypt, and in old Saxon named Gersthop.[20]

Compound words involving "locust" have also been used by anglophone translators as calques of archaic Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, or other language names for animals; the resulting formations have, just as in the case of the Brownian grasshopper/cicada controversy, been, at times, a cause of lexical ambiguity and false polysemy in English. An instance of this appears in a translation of Pliny included in J.W. McCrindle's book Ancient India as Described in Classical Literature, where an Indian gem is said by the Roman historian to have a "surface [that] is even redder than the shells of the sea-locust."[21]


See also


External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LOCUST.' In its general acceptation this term is applied only to certain insects of the order Orthoptera, family Acridiidae. The family Locustidae is now viewed zoologically in a sense that does not admit of the species best known as "locusts" being included therein. The idea of a very destructive insect is universally associated with the term; therefore many orthopterous species that cannot be considered true locusts have been socalled; in North America it has even embraced certain Hemiptera-Homoptera, belonging to the Cicadidae, and in some parts of England cockchafers are so designated. In a more narrow definition the attribute of migration is associated with the destructive propensities, and it therefore becomes necessary that a true locust should be a migratory species of the family Acridiidae. Moreover, the term has yet a slightly different signification as viewed from the Old or New World. In Europe by a locust is meant an insect of large size, the smaller allied species being ordinarily known as "grasshoppers," hence the "Rocky Mountain locust" of North America is to Eastern ideas rather a grasshopper than a locust.

In Europe, and a greater part of the Old World, the best known migratory locust is that which is scientifically termed Pachytylus cinerascens with which an allied species P. migratorius has been often confounded. Another locust found in Europe and neighbouring districts is Caloptenus italicus, and still another, Acridium peregrinum, has once or twice occurred in Europe, though its home (even in a migratory sense) is more properly Africa and Asia. These practically include all the locusts of the Old World, though a migratory species of South Africa known as Pachytylus pardalinus (presumed to be distinct from P. migratorius) should be mentioned. The Rocky Mountain locust of North America is Caloptenus spretus, and in that continent there occurs an Acridium (A. americanum) so closely allied to A. peregrinum as to be scarcely distinct therefrom, though there it does not manifest migratory tendencies. In the West Indies and Central America A. peregrinum is also reported to occur.

The females excavate holes in the earth in which the eggs are deposited in a long cylindrical mass enveloped in a glutinous secretion. The young larvae hatch and immediately commence their destructive career. As these insects are "hemimetabolic" there is no quiescent stage; they go on increasing rapidly in size, and as they approach the perfect state the rudiments of the wings begin to appear. Even in this stage their locomotive powers are extensive and their voracity great. Once winged and perfect these powers become infinitely more disastrous, redoubled by the development of the migratory instinct. The laws regulating this instinct are not perfectly understood. Food and temperature have a great deal to do with it, and there is a tendency for the flights to take a particular direction, varied by the physical circumstances of the breeding districts. So likewise each species has its area of constant location, and its area of extraordinary migration. Perhaps the most feasible of the suggestions as to the causes of the migratory impulse is that locusts naturally breed in dry sandy districts in which food is scarce, and are impelled to wander to procure the necessaries of life; but against this it has been argued that swarms bred in a highly productive district in which they have temporarily settled will seek the barren home of their ancestors. Another ingenious suggestion is that migration is intimately connected with a dry condition of the atmosphere, urging them to move on until compelled to stop for food or procreative purposes. Swarms travel considerable distances, though probably generally fewer than 1000 m., though sometimes very much more. As a rule the progress is only gradual, and this adds vastly to the devastating effects. When an extensive swarm temporarily settles in a district, all vegetation rapidly disappears, and then hunger urges it on another stage. The large Old World species, although undoubtedly phytophagous, when compelled by hunger sometimes attack at least dry animal substances, and even cannibalism has been asserted as an outcome of the failure of all other kinds of food. The length of a single flight must depend upon 1 The Lat. locusta was first applied to a lobster or other marine shell-fish, and then, from its resemblance, to the insect.

circumstances. From peculiarities in the examples of Acridium peregrinum taken in England in 1869, it has been asserted that they must have come direct by sea from the west coast of Africa; and what is probably the same species has been seen in the Atlantic at least 1 200 m. from land, in swarms completely covering the ship; thus, in certain cases flight must be sustained for several days and nights together. The height at which swarms fly, when their horizontal course is not liable to be altered by mountains, has been very variously estimated at from 40 to 200 ft., or even in a particular case to 500 ft. The extent of swarms and the number of individuals in a swarm cannot be accurately ascertained. They come sometimes in such numbers as to completely obscure the sun, when the noise made by the rustling of the wings is deafening. Nevertheless some idea on this point may be formed from the ascertained fact that in Cyprus in 1881, at the close of the season, 1,600,000,000 egg-cases, each containing a considerable number of eggs, had been destroyed; the estimated weight exceeding 1300 tons. Yet two years later, it is believed that not fewer than 5,076,000,000 egg-cases were again deposited in the island.

In Europe the best known and ordinarily most destructive species is Pachytylus cinerascens, and it is to it that most of the numerous records of devastations in Europe mainly refer, but it is probably not less destructive in many parts of Africa and Asia. That the arid steppes of central Asia are the home of this insect appears probable; still much on this point is enveloped in uncertainty. In any case the area of permanent distribution is enormous, and that of occasional distribution is still greater. The former area extends from the parallel of 40° N. in Portugal, rising to 48° in France and Switzerland, and passing into Russia at 55°, thence continuing across the middle of Siberia, north of China to Japan; thence south to the Fiji Islands, to New Zealand and North Australia; thence again to Mauritius FIG. i. - Pachytylus migratorius. This and the other figures are all natural size.

and over all Africa to Madeira. The southern distribution is uncertain and obscure. Taking exceptional distribution, it is well known that it occasionally appears in the British Isles, and has in them apparently been noticed as far north as Edinburgh; so also does it occasionally appear in Scandinavia, and it has probably been seen up to 63° N. in Finland. Looking at this vast area, it is easy to conceive that an element of uncertainty must always exist with regard to the exact determination of the species, and in Europe especially is this the case, because there exists a distinct species, known as P. migratorius, the migratory area of which appears to be confined to Turkestan and eastern Europe.

P. cinerascens is certainly the most common of the "locusts" occasionally found in the British Isles, and E. de Selys-Longchamps is of opinion that it breeds regularly in Belgium, whereas the true P. migratorius is only accidental in that country.

A South African species allied to the preceding and provisionally identified as Pachytylus salcicollis is noteworthy from the manifesta FIG. 2. - Acridium peregrinum. tion of the migratory instinct in immature wingless individuals. The families of young, after destroying the vegetation of a district, unite in a vast army and move away in search of fresh pastures, devastating the country as they go and proceeding of necessity on foot, hence they are known to the Dutch as "voetgangers." Travelling northwards towards the centre of the continent, the home of their parents before migration, they are diverted from their course by no obstacles. Upon reaching a river or stream they search the bank for a likely spot to cross, then fearlessly cast themselves upon the water where they form floating islands of insects, most of which usually succeed in gaining the opposite bank, though many perish in the attempt.

Acridium peregrinum (fig. 2) can scarcely be considered even an accidental visitor to Europe; yet it has been seen in the south of Spain, and in many examples spread over a large part of England in the year 1869. It is a larger insect than P. migratorius. There is every reason to believe that it is the most destructive locust throughout Africa and in India and other parts of tropical Asia, and its ravages are as great as those of P. migratorius. Presumably it is the species occasionally noticed in a vast swarm in the Atlantic, very far from land, and presumably also it occurs in the West Indies and some parts of Central America. In the Argentine Republic a (possibly) distinct species (A. paranense) is the migratory locust.

Caloptenus italicus (fig. 3) is a smaller insect, with a less extended area of migration; the destruction occasioned in the districts to which it is limited is often scarce less than that of its more terrible allies. It is essentially a species of the Mediterranean district, and especially of the European side of that sea, yet it is also found in North Africa, and appears to extend far into southern Russia.

Caloptenus spretus (fig. 4) is the "Rocky Mountain locust" or "hateful grasshopper" of the North American continent. Though a comparatively small insect, not so large as some of the grasshoppers of English fields, its destructiveness has procured for it great notoriety. By early travellers and settlers the species was not recognized as distinct from some of its non-migratory congeners. But in 1877, Congress appointed a United States Entomological Commission to investigate the subject. The report of the commissioners (C.V Riley, A. S. Packard and C. Thomas) deals with the whole subject of locusts both in America and the Old World. C. spretus has its home or permanent area in the arid plains of the central region east of the Rocky Mountains, extending slightly into the southern portion of Canada; outside this is a wide fringe to which the term sub-permanent is applied, and this is again bounded by the limits of only occasional distribution, the whole occupying a large portion of the North American continent; but it is not known to have crossed the Rocky Mountains westward, or to have extended into the eastern states.

As to remedial or preventive measures tending to check the ravages of locusts, little unfortunately can be said; but anything that will apply to one species may be used with practically all. Something can be done (as is now done in Cyprus) by offering a price for all the egg-tubes collected, which is the most direct manner of attacking them. Some little can be done by destroying the larvae while in an FIG. 3. - Caloptenus italicus. unwinged condition, and by digging trenches in the line of march into which they can fall and be drowned or otherwise put an end to. Little can be done with the winged hordes; starvation, the outcome of their own work, probably here does much. In South Africa some success has attended the spraying of the swarms with arsenic. It has been shown that with all migratory locusts the breeding-places, or true homes, are comparatively barren districts (mostly elevated plateaus); hence the progress of colonization, and the conversion of those heretofore barren plains into areas of fertility, may (and probably will) gradually lessen the evil.

Locusts have many enemies besides man. Many birds greedily devour them, and it has many times been remarked that migratory swarms of the insects were closely followed by myriads of birds.

FIG. 4. - Rocky Mountain Locust (Caloptenus spretus). (After Riley.) a, a, a, Female in different posi- d, e show the earth partially re tions, ovipositing. moved, to illustrate an egg b, Egg-pod extracted from mass already in place, and ground, with the end broken one being placed.

open. [ground. f, shows where such a mass has c, A few eggs lying loose on the been covered up.

Predatory insects of other orders also attack them, especially when they are in the unwinged condition. Moreover, they have still more deadly insect foes as parasites. Some attack the fully developed winged insect. But the greater part attack the eggs. To such belong certain beetles, chiefly of the family Cantharidae, and especially certain two-winged flies of the family Bombyliidae. These latter, both in the Old and New World, must prevent vast quantities of eggs from producing larvae.

The larger Old World species form articles of food with certain semi-civilized and savage races, by whom they are considered as delicacies, or as part of ordinary diet, according to the race and the method of preparation. (R. M`L.; R. I. P.)

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Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

There are ten Hebrew words used in Scripture to signify locust. In the New Testament locusts are mentioned as forming part of the food of John the Baptist (Mt 3:4; Mk 1:6). By the Mosaic law they were reckoned "clean," so that he could lawfully eat them. The name also occurs in Rev 9:3ff, in allusion to this Oriental devastating insect.See Locusts of Revelation

Locusts belong to the class of Orthoptera, i.e., straight-winged. They are of many species. The ordinary Syrian locust resembles the grasshopper, but is larger and more destructive. "The legs and thighs of these insects are so powerful that they can leap to a height of two hundred times the length of their bodies. When so raised they spread their wings and fly so close together as to appear like one compact moving mass." Locusts are prepared as food in various ways. Sometimes they are pounded, and then mixed with flour and water, and baked into cakes; "sometimes boiled, roasted, or stewed in butter, and then eaten." They were eaten in a preserved state by the ancient Assyrians.

The devastations they make in Eastern lands are often very appalling. The invasions of locusts are the heaviest calamites that can befall a country. "Their numbers exceed computation: the hebrews called them 'the countless,' and the Arabs knew them as 'the darkeners of the sun.' Unable to guide their own flight, though capable of crossing large spaces, they are at the mercy of the wind, which bears them as blind instruments of Providence to the doomed region given over to them for the time. Innumerable as the drops of water or the sands of the seashore, their flight obscures the sun and casts a thick shadow on the earth (Ex 10:15; Jdg 6:5; Jdg 7:12; Jer 46:23; Joel 2:10). It seems indeed as if a great aerial mountain, many miles in breadth, were advancing with a slow, unresting progress. Woe to the countries beneath them if the wind fall and let them alight! They descend unnumbered as flakes of snow and hide the ground. It may be 'like the garden of Eden before them, but behind them is a desolate wilderness. At their approach the people are in anguish; all faces lose their colour' (Joel 2:6). No walls can stop them; no ditches arrest them; fires kindled in their path are forthwith extinguished by the myriads of their dead, and the countless armies march on (Joel 2:8f). If a door or a window be open, they enter and destroy everything of wood in the house. Every terrace, court, and inner chamber is filled with them in a moment. Such an awful visitation swept over Egypt (Ex 10:1ff), consuming before it every green thing, and stripping the trees, till the land was bared of all signs of vegetation. A strong north-west wind from the Mediterranean swept the locusts into the Red Sea.", Geikie's Hours, etc., ii., 149.

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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Simple English

Locust is a kind of grasshopper which forms swarms. Such swarms are usually made of a great number of locusts. They do a lot of damage to the places where they pass, by eating the crops.

Locusts are an edible insect and are considered a delicacy in some countries.[1]

In the Bible, locust swarms are described as a plague.


Other websites

More detailed information on locusts can be found at the pages of the Australian Plague Locust Commission.

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