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Desert locust

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Desert locust
Desert locust.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Schistocerca gregaria

The Desert locust is a species of grasshopper known by the scientific name Schistocerca gregaria. They are swarming locusts distributed mostly from Africa to Asia, and are perhaps best known as the world's fastest flying insect, and the world's biggest migration insect.[1] The desert locust are unlike other grasshopper, in that they can change their behavior in response to population density allowing them to travel huge distances. Locust swarm are less than one square kilometer to several hundred square kilometers.[2] The desert locust is known as a threat to agriculture in many countries.

Body Design

a closer look on desert locust body design

Life Cycle

Desert locusts mate with each other and the female lays her eggs in a sandy, warm, and moist area. Then, she puts her abdomen into the sand to lay it and to burrow. They usually burrow to 50 or 60mm and in this, there are 50 to 100 eggs. Down there, eggs joins with frothy fluid to harden and to maintain air supply. Depending on the temperature, eggs will hatch in 10 or 20 days. The nymph tries to get to the ground called "hopper". After emerging on the ground, if they need food, they go look for it individually. When they migrate to find food, they go only few kilometers every day because of their body temperature. Usually in the morning, their body temperature moves to the level which allows them to be active and find food. Through out the night, when it's dark, the temperature drops down so they go up to bushes and plants and remain there. By now the Locust is mature and will mate. When mating the male locust go up to female's back, and puts little bit of their abdomen to her and gives sperm into her. Then that sperm later passes down the oviduct, the sperms are released and fertilize eggs. [3]As for mating, desert locust are very abundant. Females lay egg sets of 80 to 100 in the warm desert land area. Then they hatch in 10 to 14 days after, or in 70 days after in colder regions. When they hatch, they look as same as their parent. While they keep eating, they drop their skin four times until they grow up enough. For the desert locust, from the time of hatching up until its death, it never stops eating. Locust usually eat all vegetation such as leaves, fruits, flowers, grass, even branches and trees.

Lifespan: A Desert Locust lives about three to five months but the length of their life depends on the weather condition and ecological conditions. The life cycle contains three stages: egg, hopper and adult. Eggs hatch in about two weeks. The range of the duration is 10-65 days, hoppers develop in five to six stages over a period of about 30-40 days, and adults mature in about three weeks to nine months but from two to four months.[4]

Ecology

The desert locust lives a busy life. Rainfalls cause all vegetation to grow which will affect female locust when she finds sandy soil to lay her eggs. But they usually find new vegetation to serve as food for nymphs that help them to develop into a winged adult. Therefore, it not only provides goods but also provides a shelter. When vegetation is scattered, nymphs have to gather to feed. There also must be a satisfactory rain that provide most eggs to hatch. These things cause locusts to change, also the rain causes it to transform from solitary to gregarious form. When they change from one form to another, their body color changes from green-coloured to yellow and black. For adults, they change from brown to red. Not only color changes, it also changes the body size which becomes shorter. As they change, they also give off pheromones that cause them to attract others and improve the hopper band and swarm formation. But for adults, their nymphal pheromones are different. When it is made vulnerable to the adult pheromone, they become confused because they will no longer smell each other. But their visual and tactile stimuli remains. After few days, hopper band break up and escape predation, and become solitary locusts again.[5]

Crop loss

Crop loss: A Desert locust eat its weight in green vegetation, about 2g each day. Green vegetation includes:

  • leaves
  • flowers
  • bark
  • stems
  • fruit
  • seeds

Almost all plants are in risk of crop loss which spoils any kinds of resources.

  • pearl millet
  • rice
  • maize
  • sorghum
  • sugarcane
  • barley
  • cotton
  • fruit trees
  • date palm
  • vegetables
  • grasses
  • acacia
  • pines
  • bannana[6]

Video

References