Facts, Identification & Control

Scientific Name

Family Acrididae


Locust is a common name used incorrectly when identifying cicadas and other families of grasshoppers. The true locusts in the U.S. go by the common name short-horned grasshoppers. Locusts are quite diverse in appearance with more than 600 species found in North America, of which only a few are considered damaging to rangelands, crops and garden plants. Typically, locusts are large insects with two antennae that are less than half the length of its body. They have long back legs used for leaping; two wings at both the front and back of the body; and range in color from very drab to very colorful. Locusts have large eyes, heads and chewing mouthparts enabling them to consume large amounts of vegetation.

Behavior, Diet & Habits

Most locust species are found in grasslands; however some may be seen in forested or aquatic environments.

Life Cycle

The life cycle consists of egg, nymph (wingless state) and winged adults and is typically completed in one year. Mating between males and females may take up to an hour. Some locust species participate in a behavior known as mate guarding, whereby the male rides on back of the female for a period of a day or more. Females typically deposit their eggs in the ground in an egg cluster of 8-25 eggs. Eggs are normally laid in the late summer, and overwinter before hatching in the spring.

More Information

The notorious, ravenous, swarming, migratory locusts common in areas of Africa and elsewhere in the “Old World” have been around since ancient times and still cause extensive destruction to crops and grasslands where they are found. The Rocky Mountain locust (Melanoplus spretus), thought by many to now be extinct in the U.S., had a behavior and swarm numbers similar to the “Old World” locusts and caused monumental losses to agriculture and plains states’ pastures in the 1800s. While it may seem repulsive to most people, locusts are considered a delicacy in some parts of the world.

How Orkin treats for locusts

The true locusts in the U.S. go by the common name short-horned grasshoppers and are not the same insects as cicadas.

North America is home to over six hundred different species of locusts. Most of which are diverse in appearance, and only a few species damage rangelands, crops, and gardens. Therefore, before attempting a treatment program for locusts, always contact your pest management professional. Request an inspection, species identification, and preparation of a locust treatment plan. Since locusts have large chewing mouthparts, they are capable of consuming huge amounts of vegetation. As a result, homeowners may at times need to protect their landscape plants and gardens. Locust treatment can be very challenging since their behavior involves adults flying into an area, feeding on vegetation and then moving onto another feeding location.

Localized treatment of heavy locust infestations generally consists of using chemical sprays applied directly to plants or the locusts, themselves. Selecting the proper chemical insecticides depends on whether the product’s label allows application to fruits or vegetables. If chemical products are used, selecting a product is best left to your pest management professional.

There are some effective non-chemical methods that your pest management professional may recommend for the treatment program. These might include:

  • Protecting valuable shrubs and garden plants with insect mesh or cloth that is not green because green colors tend to attract locusts.
  • Removing locusts by handpicking them off plants.
  • Leaving areas of tall, uncut grass so locusts have alternative food sources and harborage sites that provide other plants to feed on and reduce the likelihood of damage to landscaping or garden plants.