Saturday, January 31, 2009
Desert locusts are normally solitary individuals who eke out a meager subsistence while avoiding others of their species. But when food sources become abundant, such as after a rain, they transform into ravening packs of billions of insects that can strip a landscape bare.
So sayeth newswriter Thomas H Maugh II in this article in today's Los Angeles Times.
He speaks of schistocerca gregaria, the desert locust found in northern Africa and responsible for devastating crop damage from periodic swarming events. Apparently seratonin blockers have been found to dampen the swarming impulse among these grasshoppers, possibly leading to a way to control the swarms. Our local cousin species, schistocerca nitens is the grey bird grasshopper pictured here looking desert-ish, resting solitarily on an austrocylindropuntia cactus in my yard. Grey bird grasshoppers are not noted for swarming behavior. Meanwhile our local birds and lizards do a good job of keeping the hopper population density low which makes it simpler for the insects to continue with their solitary lives.