What are locusts?



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    Locusts belong to the same order as grasshoppers, and are mainly known for being formidable eating machines that can rapidly devastate crops. Plagues and outbreaks usually occur when widespread rain falls throughout the year, putting all agricultural areas at risk.

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    Locusts are animals that similar in looks to grasshoppers but with entirely different behaviors. They can be solitary, but they can go through phases called gregarious phases where they congregate into thick and ravenous swarms. Swarms are huge, around 460 square miles in size with 40-80 million locuses in each half a square mile. These swarms eat their weight in plants (each swarm consuming and destroying 423 million pounds of plants), destroying crops and causing incredible damage.

    They can be considered natural disasters for the devastation they cause to humans.

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    Locusts can be especially devastating to poorer countries with large populations that depend on local harvests to eat.  A locust swarm contributed to a critical food shortage in Niger in 2005 that affected 3.7 million people. 

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    Let’s get technical! Technically, locusts are grasshoppers. All grasshoppers belong to the Order Orthoptera. There are two Families of grasshoppers, the long-horned, and the short-horned. All locusts are short-horned grasshoppers. Five species of short-horned grasshoppers are the majority responsible for forming gigantic swarms (billions of insects!) and causing so much damage across the world, the red-legged grasshopper, the clear-winged grasshopper, the two-striped grasshopper, the differential grasshopper, and the lesser migratory grasshopper. These grasshopper’s can act solitary and nondestructive overall, but sometimes environmental factors like eggs laid together or migrations due to food shortages (theories are debated among scientists) incite them to swarm together.

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