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Locusts have been feared by many people for centuries. They’re harmful because they arrive in large groups that can cause significant destruction. In fact, swarms of locust activity are often referred to as a plague. Diseases (like viruses or bacterial infections) aren’t what locusts cause—instead, their “plagues” are the significant agricultural damage they cause when they arrive in great numbers.
You’re unlikely to see locusts the United States, but it’s certainly possible to have locust look-alikes invade your property such as cicadas or long-horned grasshoppers.
IS A LOCUST OR A CICADA?
If you notice a big, green, hopping insect, or you see a strange-looking bug with big wings on your tree, your first thought might be that you have a locust in your yard. That’s particularly true if you’ve been hearing buzzing or “singing” around your garden or trees. But the truth is that you might be confusing cicadas (family Cicadidae) or grasshoppers (order Orthoptera) with an insect that is long gone from American soil.
A locust is a large insect. It’s also known as a type of short-horned grasshopper and is in the family Acrididae. It has two large back legs that make it easy for it to jump, four shorter front legs, wings that extend to the end of the abdomen or slightly beyond it, and two antennae.
Most locusts are green or brown, though there are some color variations.
In North America, most people use the words “locust” and “grasshopper” interchangeably, but it’s important to remember that all locusts are grasshoppers, but not all grasshoppers are locusts.
The only locust species in the United States was the Rocky Mountain locust. It is believed to be extinct.
|Extinction in the United States: The Rocky Mountain locust (Melanoplus spretus) is largely considered to be extinct. This type of grasshopper was common in the western part of the U.S. and Canada and was responsible for many of the locust plagues that occurred in the U.S. The largest swarm to affect the U.S. occurred in June 1875—since then, locusts have not been near as problematic for people living in the U.S.|
ARE LOCUSTS HARMFUL?
To humans, locusts are likely not harmful. However, while they don’t bite to attack, they do have the potential to nibble on you. Additionally, if you have an allergy to locusts, their swarms may affect you and cause respiratory symptoms. Interestingly, your pets could be affected, too. It’s more common to see locusts cause significant agricultural damage.
HOW DO LOCUSTS CAUSE DAMAGE?
The primary way that locusts cause destruction is through their massive swarms. These swarms spread across different regions. As they do, these short-horned grasshoppers quickly eat through crops, grasslands, and other foliage.
Locusts cause the most issues during their gregarious phase. During this phase, they switch from a solitary lifestyle to one where they want to be in a group. Some locusts will change the way they look and act during this phase, improving their endurance, swapping out their colors, and changing their body shapes.
What’s interesting about the gregarious phase is that it can happen at any time, so it’s hard to predict when locusts will suddenly pair up and move en masse. In fact, when they’re first hatched, it’s possible for some locusts to be solitary while others already have a propensity for living in a gregarious group.
Locusts reach adulthood around 24 to 95 days after hatching, at which point they will usually belong to one phase or the other. However, if there is a drought or heavy rains, those conditions could spur changes once again.
WAYS TO KEEP LOCUSTS AWAY FROM YOUR HOME
The good news is that there are no locusts in the U.S. because they’ve gone extinct. That doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal with their grasshopper relatives though, or that you won’t run into locusts if you live somewhere in the world where they do swarm.
Like locusts, grasshoppers can be destructive and difficult to control. The primary way to get rid of them is by calling a pest control company that can use the right tools and treatments to get rid of them. Of course, manual methods, like squishing them, can work, but when they come to your home in droves, it’s best to call in the professionals to help.
If you want to try to deter them from coming onto your property, keep in mind that they are highly attracted to green areas. If you plant items that are red or purple, for example, they may not be as likely to affect your plants. Additionally, you can toss a shade cloth or mesh over your plants to keep grasshoppers off.
OUR TEAM OF EXPERTS IS HERE TO HELP
While the primary locust in the United States has gone extinct, there are still plenty of grasshoppers and other pests that can cause damage to your property. If you see any type of bothersome pest, give our experts a call. We can help with pest identification and removal with our pet- and family-friendly treatments. We’re ready to help you get rid of the pests plaguing your home.
Courtney Enzor has worked in the pest control industry for about a decade. From helping you build a fly trap to giving you the best tips for identifying various bugs, she loves answering all your pest-related questions and sharing her pest-related expertise through writing. At the end of the day, she hopes her content will help people avoid mishaps and keep families happy and healthy!