They stay put and mingle to avoid predators.
This is their solitary phase.
Locusts can live like this for generations.
Even something is turning away from them.
In arid regions around the world where locusts make their homes, the cause is often heavy rain, especially after a drought.
This deluge makes plants thrive.
Solitary locusts eat and eat, which fuels and makes more locusts.
As their numbers swell, they inadvertently bump into each other.
The hair on their hind legs is particularly sensitive.
This contact triggers a pulse of serotonin: a hormone that transforms them from lonely people into organs.
Within a few hours they can go from a solitary stage to a social stage.
Melting locusts turn from camouflaged green to yellow and black in your face.
Bright colors help scare off predators by telling them that locusts taste bad.
This mutant locust has a huge appetite, and not just for food.
Very soon they are surrounded by young locusts.
Then things start to get crowded.
Even a feast of this size wouldn’t last long with so many hungry guests.
Young, restless locusts begin to move around and walk together, forming groups called bands.
It’s a locust outbreak.
When locusts mature, they grow wings and fly through the air.
The number of giant swarms in the billions.
They devour entire farms in hours, wipe out people’s livelihoods, and cause mass starvation and misery.
Outbreaks like this can last for months, years, or even decades.
It takes huge amounts of pesticides to eradicate an entire swarm.
A better strategy is to spot small outbreaks before they become massive, but they can be difficult to detect.
Researchers at Arizona State University are looking at one way to defend against locust destruction by making the land less inviting for some species.
They put grasshoppers in wind tunnels to see how far the bugs can fly based on what they eat.
They have discovered that some locusts thrive and spread far and wide on a diet rich in carbohydrates.
Land managers can make their crops and pastures richer in protein and lower in carbohydrates if they increase the amount of organic matter in the soil.
Avoiding overgrazing also helps.
These are expensive propositions and are currently out of the reach of many.
But if we can keep working on ways to cut back on carbs, it might just help prevent the plague
Hi, Deep Peeps
For this episode, we teamed up with PBS Monstrum and their host Dr. Emily Zarka who is out to shoot with us.
Tell us about the offer.
PBS Monstrum takes a closer look at monsters, myths and legends. The new episode is about giant locusts and the “Big Bug” subgenre of science fiction and horror films from the 1950s.
Take a look at how anxiety about atomic energy, pesticides, and communism appear in these giant monster bug films.
see you there!
Global Locust Initiative: https://sustainability-innovation.asu.edu/global-locust-initiative/