Are locusts harmful to humans?

Locusts are not harmful to humans. They can pinch without breaking skin. Locusts eat plants, not people. Locusts occur in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. They damage crops but don’t carry disease. Locust swarms contain billions of insects. They can destroy agriculture in a region. Historically locusts caused famines. Modern pesticides help control them. Their swarms are less devastating today. Some people eat locusts. Locusts are nutritious with 50% protein. But pesticides make eating locusted locusts risky.

Is locust a cicada?

Locusts and cicadas are two different insects. Locusts swarm; cicadas spend time above ground in large numbers.

Locusts are grasshoppers that reach adulthood. Wet weather increases their numbers. Subsequent dry weather then forces them together. Their frequent touching causes swarming.

Cicadas belong to a different order from locusts. Cicadas live longer than locusts. Locusts swarm destructively. Cicadas do not.

Locusts and cicadas differ physically. But both can fly noisily in groups. Neither threatens humans.

Cicadas suck fluids from trees. Locusts chew the plants they eat. Cicadas emerge after years underground. Locusts live just months.

Colonists called cicadas “locusts.” Cicadas seemed locust-like. True locusts were known as biblical pests. The name stuck incorrectly.

Locusts are grasshoppers. Cicadas are cousins to crickets. This confusion has lasted since colonists first saw cicadas.

Locusts live in grasslands. Cicadas live elsewhere. Locusts swarm destructively. Cicadas do not.

Why are locusts a problem?

Locusts have been feared by people for centuries. Swarms cause destruction as they arrive in large groups. Their “plagues” refer to agricultural damage not diseases. You won’t see locusts in the US, but similar insects may invade like cicadas.

Locusts live and breed in semi-arid areas and deserts. They need bare land to lay eggs so deserts like Rajasthan are perfect, away from vegetation. After eggs hatch the nymphs feed on plants to grow into adults. Deserts lack enough vegetation to support large locust populations. So they move to plains where crops allow populations to boom.

A swarm the size of Paris eats as much in a day as half of France. Numbers could grow 500 times by June. They fly 150km daily. The main threat is the rate they consume crops.

To stop locusts, FAO recommends a fungus that kills by growing inside them. Trenches around egg-laid areas trap flightless young. Garlic and neem oil repel them but must be reapplied. Initially in mid 2020 Rajasthan had over 30% crop damage from locusts. But data was preliminary.

Locusts live and breed in semi-arid or desert regions as they require bare ground rarely found in dense vegetation. While green vegetation aids hopper development, deserts lack enough to allow large populations. When food is scarce, solitary grasshoppers interact and form swarms that migrate and ravage crops.

Swarms have devastated since ancient Egypt. Over 60 countries are susceptible. Desert locusts are grasshoppers that can migrate far differently than others. An animal locust’s harm is from migrating swarms. Farmers use biological controls like fungi, trenches, and oils. But reapplication is needed. Despite early reports, India’s crop damage from locusts remains uncertain.

How does a grasshopper become a locust?

Locusts are grasshoppers that change when they have high densities. They damage crops. Locusts are often called grasshoppers incorrectly. Locusts become gregarious externally and swarm. Locusts and grasshoppers differ. When supplies are scarce, solitary grasshoppers interact and become locusts, changing color. Locusts swarm and attack crops. Locusts are grasshoppers that crowd and change. The change is “density-dependent phenotypic plasticity.” What chemical changes grasshoppers to locusts? Grasshoppers help the environment. Their droppings act as fertilizer. Also they provide food. Wings and bodies differ between locusts and grasshoppers. Locusts allow for long flights. Bodies are smaller. At best, measures prevent locusts reaching particular areas but not swarms. Color changes when migrating. Locusts and grasshoppers are the same. Crowding triggers changes. Contact releases pheromone triggering change. Physiological changes then occur. Wings, behavior, bodies differ between them. In North America plowing and trampling likely caused demise. When scarce, solitary grasshoppers interact, change color and form crops-attacking swarms. Swarms are in East Africa but spreading. Abundance triggers change from grasshopper to gregarious crop-eater. Locusts become grasshoppers after a parasite. Locusts do not bite. When scarce, solitary grasshoppers interact and change color, forming swarm. In 2020 they swarmed many countries. Locusts currently live in Africa, Asia, Americas and Australia.

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