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Desert Locust Fact File

Appearance

Locusts are related to grasshoppers and have large legs to help with jumping around.

On their back they have large wings used for flying.

Coloration differs between solitary and gregarious individuals. The solitary individuals are colored greenish as a nymph and adults are greyish.

Gregarious morph individuals are pinkish as nymphs and yellow as adults.

A desert locust will measure up to 60mm (2.25in) long. They weigh in around 2g (0.07oz).

Diet

Desert locusts will feed on leaves, shoots, flowers, fruit, seeds, stems and bark. Almost all types of plant can be eaten. They eat a range of crops grown by humans and can become a pest.

Each day an adult desert locust will eat as much as its own body weight in food each day.

Desert Locust

Scientific Name

Schistocerca gregaria

Conservation Status

Least Concern

Weight

2g (0.07oz)

Length

60mm (2.25in)

Lifespan

3-5 months

Diet

Herbivorous

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Range

Desert locusts are found across northern Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Outside of plague periods they will live in 30 countries. When swarming they may expand their range out across 60 countries.

Populations have been reported to reach parts of Europe with some travelling as far as the United Kingdom.

Habitat

They make their home in savanna, dry grasslands and semi-desert habitats.

Desert Locust

Reproduction

Eggs are deposited in to damp soil. This behavior is the reason that they swarm following periods of heavy rainfall as more egg laying sites are available.

Each female will lay between 95 and 158 eggs. Solitary females lay less eggs than gregarious females. During their short lifespan females will lay three clutches.

As they grow the desert locust will go through several stages. At each of these they will shed their outer covering known as the exoskeleton with a new, slightly larger one growing underneath. Each time they complete this they may increase their size by 1/3.

Nymphs hatch from their egg after 10-65 days. They spend the next 24 to 95 days in the non-flying nymph stage before developing in to the winged adult.

Adults mature and are ready to lay eggs one month after they complete their final molt.

Behavior

Desert locusts can fly at speeds of between 16 and 19km/h (10-11.8mph). Only adult individuals are capable of flying.

When conditions are good the desert locust will form large swarms. These tend to form after heavy rainfall or cyclones. These plague swarms may include as many 40 to 80 million individuals.

There are two different possible lifestyles for a desert locust. They can either be solitary or gregarious. The shift is prompted by a dry period which forces them together. When the rains return they breed quickly.

Desert Locust

Predators and Threats

Swarming locusts will destroy large amounts of crops in a short period.

In many areas the desert locust is seen as a food source especially during the periods where they will swarm.

They are bred in captivity to be used to feed captive animals such as reptiles.

Quick facts

Desert locusts present the largest economic impact of any locust species.

Each day a swarm of locusts can consume enough food to feed 35,000 people.

Desert Locust

Photo Credits

Top

Joachim Frische, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Middle One

Micha L. Rieser, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

Middle Two

Amada44, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom

Public Domain

References

Aravind, I., 2021. What are desert locusts and why are they so devastating? – ​Where are they coming from now?. [online] The Economic Times. Available at: <https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/what-are-desert-locusts-amp-why-are-they-so-devastating/risk-factor/slideshow/76116472.cms> [Accessed 4 May 2021].

Animals. 2021. Locusts, facts and photos. [online] Available at: <https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/invertebrates/facts/locusts> [Accessed 4 May 2021].

Hochkirch, A., Presa, J.J., Chobanov, D.P., Kristin, A., Szovenyi, G., Kleukers, R., Rutschmann, F. & Willemse, L.P.M. 2016. Schistocerca gregaria. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T16084387A74510644. Downloaded on 04 May 2021.

Encyclopedia Britannica. 2021. locust | Definition, Size, & Facts. [online] Available at: <https://www.britannica.com/animal/locust-insect> [Accessed 4 May 2021].

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2021. Desert Locust. [online] Available at: <http://www.fao.org/locusts/en/> [Accessed 4 May 2021].

iNaturalist. 2021. Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria). [online] Available at: <https://www.inaturalist.org/taxa/198928-Schistocerca-gregaria> [Accessed 4 May 2021].

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