Locusts are a species of insects that fall under the family Acrididae and the order Orthoptera. Locusts are found all over the world and look very similar to grasshopper insects. Very often the locusts are mistaken for grasshoppers. The characteristics of locusts vary depending on the species. For example the Locusta migratoria known as migratory locust, is found in grasslands of Africa, South Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Similarly the South American locust known as Schistocerca paranensis is abundantly found in central and southern parts of America. Since plants are the primary food source of locusts, their swarms have ruined crops and destroyed agricultural industries at large.
Let’s look at the life cycle of a locust to get a better understanding.
Life Cycle of Locust
1) The Egg – Stage 1 –
After fertilization, the female locusts usually lays her eggs inside holes made in warm, damp soil or sand known as pods. The female locusts produces a froth-liquid that encloses the eggs which ensures hydration and protection from predators. After this the eggs undergo further development and enter the nymph stage.
2) The Nymph – Stage 2 –
After 10 days to two weeks of egg laying, the eggs hatch and nymphs come out. These newly hatched locusts are called hoppers or nymphs. Gradually as the nymph grows, they shed their skin or molt five times. These molting phases are known as instars. After the fifth instar, the nymph has developed wings and functioning reproductive organs.
3) The Fledglings – Stage 3 –
After the fifth molting, even though the nymphs have fully grown wings, they are still soft and fragile. Due to this the fledglings are unable to fly yet. During this stage, the exoskeleton of fledgling locust becomes harder. Fledglings also consume large amounts of plants in order to conserve energy for reproduction and wing development.
4) The Adult – Stage 4 –
After about two weeks, the fledglings become sexually mature. During this stage the adult locust is mostly migrating and constantly feeding. Adult locusts tend to gather in large groups and invade green plants or crop fields. The life expectancy of adult locusts is around eight to ten weeks. During this the male and female locusts mate, the female locusts lays eggs and the entire cycle begins again.
Insects like butterflies and houseflies who undergo complete metamorphosis, whereas locusts do not undergo complete metamorphosis. From gathering in swarms to living in solidarity, locusts showcase various characteristics.
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Frequently Asked Questions on Locust Life Cycle
What is the difference between locusts and grasshoppers?
Unlike grasshoppers, locusts have the ability to change their behaviour and habitat for a vast range of distance.
Are locusts dangerous?
Not all locusts are dangerous but the desert locusts are dangerous because of its ability to gather in swarms and fly swiftly across the wind in large distances.
What is a group of locusts called?
A big group of locusts is called plague of locusts. Other alternative names for large groups of locusts are called swarm of locusts.
How long do locusts live?
The life expectancy of typical adult locust lasts for around 10 weeks.