• A plague of locusts can be devastating and continues to threaten the very economic livelihood of countries and one-tenth of the world's humans.D
  • The horn of Africa and Kenya is at the moment battling with one of the worst locusts invasion in 25 years.
  • Business Insider SSA decided to do some digging and unearthed some interesting and scary facts about locusts that will blow your mind.

The desert locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is one of the most feared creatures on the planet today.

A plague of locusts can be devastating and continues to threaten the very economic livelihood of countries and one-tenth of the world's humans.

Found in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, they inhabit some 60 countries and can cover one-fifth of Earth's land surface.

A desert locust. (cirad)
A desert locust. (cirad)

Locust swarms devastate crops and cause major agricultural damage and attendant human misery—famine and starvation.

The horn of Africa and Kenya is at the moment battling with one of the worst locusts invasion in 25 years, the United Nations food agency said on Wednesday, and the infestation is likely to spread further.

A swarm of Desert locusts. (participatorygis.)
A swarm of Desert locusts. (participatorygis.)

The locusts have damaged about 70,000 hectares of land in Somalia and neighboring Ethiopia, threatening food supplies in both countries and the livelihoods of farming communities, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

Business Insider SSA decided to do some digging and unearthed some interesting and scary facts about locusts that will blow your mind.

Here are just a few.

A swarm of locusts can contain as many as 80 million locusts

A desert locust swarm can be 460 square miles in size and pack between 40 and 80 million locusts into less than half a square mile. An average swarm will destroy crops that could feed 2,500 people for a year, according to FAO.

They have insatiable appetite

Each locust can eat its weight in plants each day. A swarm of locusts can eat 423 million pounds of plants every day.

When food runs out, they turn cannibal

Locust devour every crop in their path and when food runs out they turn to each other and devour each other to death.

They have serrated jaws

Locusts have serrated jaws which move from side to side to cut through plant food. They are also equipped with a pair of secondary jaws which help in holding the food, and a lower lip.

They are agile flyers

Locust swarms are typically in motion and can cover vast distances. In 1954, for instance a swarm flew from northwest Africa to Great Britain, according to National Geographic. In 1988, another made the lengthy trek from West Africa to the Caribbean.

They are different from grasshoppers despite belonging to the same Family

A desert locust
A desert locust

Locusts and grasshoppers are acridids, i.e. short-horned insects that belong to a Family called Acrididae in the Orthoptera Order, which also encompases crickets and long-horned grasshoppers.

Unlike the grasshopper, the Desert Locust has the ability to change its behaviour and appearance to suit particular environmental conditions

Locusts differ from grasshoppers by their capacity to react to high densities. Under crowded conditions, their behaviour, morphology, appearance, physiology, habits and ecology change progressively (over several generations), a shift known as phase change.

A Grasshopper. (homestratosphere.)
A Grasshopper. (homestratosphere.)

While grasshoppers are solitary in nature locusts can both be solitary and social depending on environmental conditions.

When environmental conditions produce many green plants and promote breeding, locusts can congregate into thick, mobile, ravenous swarms under a phase called the gregarious phase. .

This phase change occurs after suitable ecological conditions (sufficient vegetation for food and roosting, appropriate soil moisture for laying) have allowed successful breeding generations, low natural mortality and number increase.

They are waterproof and repeal most liquid poisons

The locust is covered with a special kind of skin which is referred to as the cuticle. It has three different layers. The layer nearest the inside of the body is soft and flexible; then comes a harder layer and on the outside is a thin layer of wax.

This wax makes the skin waterproof and its presence also means that insecticides required to kill locusts by contact action should be dissolved in oils which will penetrate the wax.

They skip pupa stage

Unlike other insects such as butterflies and houseflies, locusts do not undergo a complete metamorphosis. Locusts go through egg, nymph and adult stages -- lacking the pupa stage.

They have a lifespan of eight weeks

Locusts have a lifespan of at most eight weeks during which they reproduce and die.

Locusts eggs hatch within 10 to 20 days

Depending on temperature and moisture conditions, locusts eggs hatch within 10 to 20 days. Female locusts lay eggs shortly after mating in moist sand soils. Heavy rains prompt locust eggs to hatch.

Eating locusts can prevent heart cancer

A meal composed of the locusts can prevent killer diseases such as cancer among a host of other deadly diseases.

Locusts contain high levels of chemicals known as phytosterols that could control heart-related diseases. A study conducted jointly by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and United States Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS) found that eating the meat of the desert locust could be good for your heart.

Desert locusts contain a rich composition of compounds known as sterols, which in turn have cholesterol-lowering properties, thereby reducing the risk of heart disease.