20 C
Mossel Bay
23rd Mar 2023
Nature & Nurture

Locusts and Grasshoppers: What is the Difference?

Well now that the holidays are over and we’re returning to our ‘slow living by choice’, I hope you’re not feeling like this fellow, a little decrepit and decidedly prehistoric! No doubt you’ll soon be back to normal.

I’ve been trying to understand the difference between grasshoppers and locusts and having some difficulty, but it would seem I’m not alone as the literature says the ‘distinction between them is not clear cut’. It would seem that they are all grasshoppers. I quote ‘locusts are a species of short-horned grasshoppers that periodically form large populations in dense migrating groups’.  The one in the picture belongs to the family Pamphagidae.

Grasshoppers are usually solitary, while locusts can be solitary but they can also form huge swarms of wingless nymphs (juveniles) and winged adults with devastating results to crops. When conditions are right and the populations are dense enough they undergo physiological as well as behavioural changes and begin to swarm. In some grasshoppers/locusts the changes in body shape, colour, fertility etc. are so marked that it was once thought that they were two different species. This phase is called polyphenism. The changes are triggered by serotonin in the brain as a result of drought conditions, followed by good rains and vegetation growth.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could suddenly undergo a rejuvenating change in the right conditions!

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