Facts, Identification & Control
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. 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.
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.